The virtual fitness game plan
by misha davenport firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2010 6:44PM
“The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” has 120 types of exercise, but a clunky interface menu.
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:20AM
It’s 6:45 a.m. The coffee is brewing, but it will have to wait.
I’m two weeks into my nine-week fitness program and my personal trainer is expecting me.
“Today is all about upper body,” he exclaims with a little too much enthusiasm given the early hour.
Of course, I know he’s lying. He’ll spend the next 30 minutes putting me through my paces, and while our workout will include some arm exercises, after two weeks of working out with him, I know that squats are a cornerstone of every workout.
And I hate squats. I try to cheat a little, but he’s watching me like a hawk. He tells me if I’m having trouble, I should hit pause and have him review the proper form.
I pause “EA Sports Fitness 2” ($99.99 from Electronic Arts) on my Xbox 360 and go into the kitchen to pour myself some much-needed java. Form, schmorm. I need coffee.
“The best thing about video game exercise programs is that they get people up off the sofa and moving around while they are playing the game, which is a great way to get exercise without feeling like you are actually exercising,” said Bob Harper, one of the personal trainers on TV’s “The Biggest Loser” and in its companion video game, “The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout.”
“I think that these video game exercise programs are a lot of fun and when things are a lot of fun, you are more inclined to do them and want to do them again. With the state of obesity rising with children, this is a great tool for them to get active.”
Let’s face it, it’s also lucrative. Fitness and exercise is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it’s no wonder video game companies wouldn’t mind a slice of that pie.
Video game consoles like the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 and the Wii are technologically sophisticated enough to detect movement.
In the case of the Xbox 360’s Kinect (a $149.99 camera accessory), it’s depth-sensing lens can track form, giving my virtual “EA Sports Fitness 2” virtual personal trainer a pair of eyes during my workout.
The game also came packed with a wireless heart monitor that you strap to your arm, allowing for the trainer to up the intensity of the workout if he feels I’m not sweating enough.
The resistance band that came along with the game was a little flimsy. I opted to replace it with a thicker band (under $10 and available at most sports stores) that offered more resistance.
You exercise about five days a week on the program, but it requires a daily diary entry where you report things like what you ate, how much water you drank, how many hours of sleep you got and any physical activity away from the virtual world. I’ve been averaging about a pound of weight loss a week.
There are a few drawbacks to the program aside from the reliance on squats.
For activities that require lying down on the floor, the camera doesn’t always track movement. After repeated attempts to have your movement register while doing a crunch, you may be inclined as I am to work the prescribed set in the real world and then skip the exercise in the virtual one. It’s a fault that isn’t just limited to “EA Sports Active 2,” either.
I also tested Ubisoft’s “Your Shape: Fitness Evolved” and THQ’s “The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” (both $49.99) and experienced similar issues with anything performed on the floor.
“Loser” had a somewhat confusing and clunky user interface menu, but the diverse amount of exercises (more than 120, including cardio-boxing and yoga) make up for that shortcoming. Fans of the show will enjoy working out with a virtual version of the show’s trainer Bob Harper, too.
“Your Shape: Fitness Evolved” scored points for offering fitness clinics and gym games (four mini-games including “Virtual Smash” that has you punching and kicking blocks) in addition to a virtual personal trainer.
I also tried out Majesco’s “Zumba Fitness: Join the Party” (available for the 360, PS3 and Wii, $39.99-$49.99). On the plus side, I felt less self-conscious about not looking cool while dancing because I was alone in my living room. The music was high energy and included salsa, merengue and calypso — not exactly the kind of stuff I’m used to hearing in the gym.
As with some of the other exercise programs, there is really no way of knowing if you’re truly using proper form. The fitness belt that comes with the Wii version of the game tracked hip movements when you place the Wii remote in it. Like many guys, I’m not used to swinging my hips, so this might be a better program for the ladies.
Regardless of the console you own, chances are there’s an exercise game out there for it that should provide motivation to keep that New Year’s resolution you’ll be making in a couple weeks to lose weight/get in shape. Provided you stick with the program, of course.