The New Fitness: Exergaming
You can’t blame the videogame industry for wanting to revamp its image. Videogames have gotten a bad rap for being a sedentary pastime, whose devotees while away precious hours, taking only short breaks to dig into bowls of couch potato chips. With reports of national obesity on the rise, it just seems like a problematic FAIL.
Enter the increasing promotion and growing popularity of exergaming—the combination of exercise and videogaming—which has proven to be a great way to get people of all ages moving.
In exergaming the body, rather than just a handheld device, propels the game forward. One of the first popular videogames to combine body movement and video gaming was Dance Dance Revolution, a fixture of Japanese and American arcades in the early 2000s. Standing on a mat, a player is tested on his/her hand-feet coordination as a screen prompts the player to step on specific points in time to the highly rhythmic music. Anyone who’s witnessed this game—often played with two people competing against each other—can attest to its sheer physicality and obvious calorie-burning benefits.
DDR, as it’s commonly called, has also found its place in homes with Wii, Xbox, Playstation®, Nintendo, and others. But some of the most popular fitness Wii games, for example, closely relate to their non-virtual counterparts. “I use all yoga and strength-training exercises,” says music therapist and Wii Fit enthusiast Stephanie Fry. “In addition, I incorporate some extra cardio to my workouts with [Wii Fit games] Hula Hoop, Rhythm Boxing, Advanced Step, and Basic Run.”
A long commute led Fry to the Wii Fit, which has made it easier for her to work exercise into her busy routine. With its “Fit Credits” and “Fit Bank” the Wii helps users track their progress. “Wii reminds me when I’ve taken an extended break from my exercising duties,” says Fry. “In order to avoid the embarrassment of having a cheerful, disembodied voice calling me up short for my negligence, I try to be fairly consistent with my routine, racking up the “Fit Credits” in my “Fit Bank.” Plus, says Fry, it’s fun! “I feel more engaged with the Wii; when I feel unmotivated, it tricks me into feeling like I’m playing a videogame instead of exercising.”
Described as “a Wii on steroids,” the interactive sport simulator Trazer2® is being used in high-end gyms, including the one at Fountainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, as well as schools and senior centers. Could systems like this one be coming to your gym soon? Given the growing interest in exergaming, it definitely seems possible.