Video Games and Fitness

If you're not aware, I am a gamer. I spend the majority of my free time playing video games. I stream on Twitch, record for YouTube, and even play one game competitively. I love video games. I grew up playing them, sitting by my father's side, and it's something that's never gone away.

The problem, of course, is that I spend too much time playing video games, and not enough time moving around. Video games are largely sedentary; you sit and play for hours with hardly moving more than your fingers. And when you play competitively, it's treated like a job; all the time I'm not at work, I'm working on improving my game. So that hardly leaves time for other stuff, like working out.

Thankfully, there was a fitness surge in the gaming world about ten years ago. Dance, Dance Revolution hit it big in the west, and the Nintendo Wii was a system designed with movement in mind. Being the gamer and fitness enthusiast that I am, I tried out a lot of fitness games on the Wii, and still play some to this day. So let's go over a brief list of some of the greats, shall we? (This list, while not intentional, starts with the least intensive to most.)

1. Wii Sports. This was packaged in with the Nintendo Wii, so everyone who bought the system got this game to try out. And it was a hit! Three of the games were low-impact (baseball, bowling, and golf), great for people just getting into moving around, and two of them got your heart rate up. I loved putting on the tennis or boxing (especially the boxing!) and going at it. In addition, you could train and keep track of your improvement.

2. Wii Fit. Another game that showed off the Nintendo Wii's hardware for fitness, Wii Fit (and its successor Wii Fit Plus) was specifically made to improve users' fitness. A trainer guided you through exercises (yoga and strength training, mostly) as the accompanying balance board made sure you were doing them properly. The balance board was a real strength to the game-- the slightest bit off on a yoga pose, and it showed you exactly where you needed to fix your balance. I did a lot of yoga from that. The balance board also doubled as a scale, so you could weigh in with each use and track your progress on a graph.
3. EA Sports Active/Sports Active 2. To me, this is the culmination of the above two games, and my favorite of them. Equipped with a "personal trainer" and a training plan, you have a different workout each day. One of the games (the second one, I believe) comes with a heart rate monitor to track your progress and calories burned; the other one comes with resistance bands to use during your workouts. It's a whole kit ready to get you active-- and the workouts are intense! Boxing, running, jumping jacks... a high cardio workout is guaranteed.

4. Just Dance. One of the easier dance games, thus easier to get into than the ones I'm going to mention next. Accuracy only counts so much; you can wave your arms around and still get the points. It gets you moving without being intimidating, and always features a catalog of popular and timeless hits. The latest versions even have a "sweat" section where you can put together your own workout playlists and calculate calories burned (very loose calculations though). If you're new to dance games, Just Dance is one to check out.



5. Dance, Dance Revolution/Pump It Up/StepMania/etc. Now, these are games I've never invested much time into, because they require actual coordination of your feet (I'm much better with my arms than legs). But like Just Dance, they can get you sweating and burning calories in no time at all. My friend Woomy tells me, "At a good enough pace and using the results/selection as downtime, it becomes cardio intervals and can be really good for helping regulate your heart rate while doing effort". Sounds like a great workout to me! In addition, StepMania is playable on PC and has a strong community that creates its own beat maps, resulting in thousands of royalty-free tracks being available. Can't beat free!

Are you ready to pick up a fitness game now? Is there one that you really love that I should check out? Let me know!