Video game fitness reviews

Yes, you can lose weight and get toned while having fun. Find out how effective the fitness games on Nintendo’s DS and Wii Fit really are

Video game fitness reviews

Source: Web exclusive: December 2008

Can a video game like the popular Nintendo Wii Fit help you burn calories and shape up? Yes! ‘Engaging in moderate intense physical activity for 30 minutes a day, even if it’s in the form of game play, will result in health-related benefits,’ says Biray Alsac, an adjunct faculty member of the Exercise Science Department at Mesa Community College and director of FITTmaxx Institute in Chandler, Arizona. Research suggests that some kinds of game play over short periods of time can be similar in intensity to jogging, skipping and walking, for instance.

I can attest to the slimming benefits of exergaming, too. In the two months before writing this article, I’ve been working out four to five times a week for about 45 minutes, alternating between traditional exercise DVDs and Nintendo’s Wii Fit. So far I’ve dropped about four pounds and I’m more toned than I’ve been in years. (And it’s way cheaper than a gym membership!)

But not all fitness video games are created equal, and they’re often not as challenging as the sports they mimic. ‘They’re not intended to replace or replicate the fitness class or DVD experience’their focus is on combining gaming and fitness,’ says Alsac. Still, some games are more effective than others at burning calories and building strength. I tried 30-minute workouts using the seven different game programs below and ran them by Alsac, to give you a sense of which games offer the most fitness bang for your buck.

Wii Fit

Nintendo ($90 ‘ includes games and Balance Board)
Best Health Rating: 4 out of 5

What it does: Tracks weight, BMI, centre of balance and progress in 40 activities, including yoga, aerobics, strength training and balance exercises.
What you’ll need: Nintendo Wii Console (including accessories), which operates with your TV ($240)
Why it works (or doesn’t): A 30-minute workout of boxing, super hula hoop, running and strength exercises’from planks to rowing squats’left me laughing, tired and feeling toned. The muzak can be a bit dull, but the scores and accumulating fitness credits kept me motivated.
What the fitness pro says: The variety in exercises encourages extended game play, and the tracking features improve accountability, agrees Alsac. ‘But if you don’t attend step classes, participate in a yoga practice, or engage in calisthenics, you’re probably not going to do it on a Wii Fit.’ On the other hand, maybe you will try them for the first time and get hooked!

DanceDanceRevolution Hottest Party 2 for Wii

Konami ($70; versions available for PlayStation and Xbox 360, too)
Best Health Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What it does: Features dance challenges, as well as a workout option, to funky tunes such as "Umbrella," "Walking on Sunshine," "We Got The Beat" and more. Performance ratings, encouraging comments and a calories-burned counter keep you motivated.
What you’ll need: Nintendo Wii Console
Why it works (or doesn’t): This was definitely the best’and most exhilarating! ‘cardio workout of the lot, thanks to the stomping, jumping and hand pumping dance moves. I was feeling happy, hot and wobbly by the end of my beginner 30-minute set, which supposedly burned 537 calories!?! Some challenges: fast-paced, flashing graphics make it tough to select your workout and there are no stretching exercises. You may want to wear athletic shoes for support.
What the fitness pro says: ‘DDR has the most academic research supporting its game play, making it a sound health and fitness application,’ says Alsac. ‘But there may be a higher learning curve to this game, especially for those who are fairly uncoordinated.’ I’ll vouch for that!

Celebrity Sports Showdown for Wii

Electronic Arts ($30)
Best Health Rating: 2 out of 5

What it does: Let’s you compete in curling, inner tubing, archery, rock climbing and other amusing activities against electronic versions of Fergie, Avril Lavigne, Mia Hamm, Keith Urban, Sugar Ray Leonard and others.
What you’ll need: Nintendo Wii Console
Why it works (or doesn’t): Many of the games require little more than vigorous shaking or moving of the remote. Only the beach volleyball, joust duel and arena dodgeball relied on full-body movements that helped me break a sweat. Be sure to stretch your arms and legs afterwards.
What the fitness pro says: ‘If you’re not into traditional exercise activities, this game may appeal to you’ says Alsac. ‘Still, it may not increase the heart rate to an intensity that could elicit health-related benefits.’

Quick Yoga Training for Nintendo DS

Ubisoft ($20)
Best Health Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What it does: Teaches you as many as 180 poses, with motion-captured graphics based on certified instructor Mai Hashimoto of the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation. Tracks progress and calories burned and offers goal-based workouts, such as ‘burn body fat’ or ‘thinner arms.’
What you’ll need: Nintendo DS, a hand-held game console
Why it works (or doesn’t): My 30-minute fat burning yoga routine worked up to some very challenging poses, such as the chair pose and the inaccurately named ‘pillow pose’ (‘killer pose,’ more like). Breathing cues and deep stretches left me limber and oxygenated by the end’but I only burned a disappointing 30.7 calories, according to the display.
What the fitness pro says: This isn’t really an exergame’it’s more like a traditional yoga DVD since the player is watching an instructor on the screen, says Alsac. ‘But, it’s a great introduction to a variety of yoga poses.’

Active Life Outdoor Challenge for Wii

Namco Bandai ($60, including the Active Life Mat)
Best Health Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What it does: Encourages whole-body movement in fun games from kayaking to mountain boarding to mine-cart adventures.
What you’ll need: Nintendo Wii Console
Why it works (or doesn’t): Running, jumping and arm pumping in activities such as hurdles, sprinting, log jumping and skipping rope had me sweating and breathing heavily. But you’re in bare feet, there are no stretches and no guidance on form, so you need to stretch on your own and be careful.
What the fitness pro says: Short bursts of high-intensity activities can help target visceral fat, says Alsac, before warning, ‘This exergame may leave unconditioned players exhausted and sore, reducing the chances of long-term adherence.’

Jillian Michaels’ Fitness Ultimatum 2009 for Nintendo Wii

Majesco ($45)
Best Health Rating: 3 out of 5

What it does: Offers strength training, weight loss, intervals and hill climb workouts led by the strength trainer and life coach of NBC’s hit series ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Also tracks performance, weight and calories burned.
What you’ll need: Nintendo Wii Console and Wii Fit Balance Board (optional)
Why it works (or doesn’t): Running, log jumping, monkey bars, tire jumping and the other exercises in my medium-intensity weight loss set were easy and fun, thanks to the great music and helpful tips on correct form. However, I only burned 157 calories and found it much less challenging than the Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred DVD.
What the fitness pro says: The ability to choose the type of workout, select intensity level, and vary the session duration offers lots of flexibility, especially for those on different schedules, says Alsac.

Let’s Yoga for Nintendo DS

Konami ($20)
Best Health Rating: 2.5 out of 5

What it does: Guides you through up to 80 different yoga poses, including 20 you can do at your desk at work. It includes custom workouts for stress relief and other goals, and tracks workout times as well as energy, flexibility and balance points.
What you’ll need: Nintendo DS
Why it works (or doesn’t): The beautiful graphics, soothing music and breathing cues made it effortless to work through a set of chair poses, forward bends and lunge poses. I felt relaxed but not overly challenged.
What the fitness pro says: Like with Quick Yoga Training, beginners may find it a bit hard to engage with a small screen during a yoga practice, says Alsac. Some may find it useful to first consult a yoga book or DVD.

Editor’s note: While we did contact other gaming companies for similar titles, only Nintendo was able to supply us with any at this time. Let’s hope newer and even better fitness games become a reality across all platforms!

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