Obesity rates in the United States have reached staggering highs, especially for children. Even more concerning: many school districts across the nation are doing away with gym classes. We’re a sedentary society, struggling against our ever-expanding waistlines. We need help, and we need it fast. What better way to get off our keisters and start sweating than… playing video games? Whaaaaat?
Typically, when one thinks of fitness and exercise, video games do not come to mind. Now, with the advent of fitness video games, even the naysayers are finding themselves dancing on mats with rhythmic perfection.
Dance Dance Revolution is a music video series produced by Konami. The game requires players to follow on-screen arrows that indicate a pattern in which to move their feet on the game mat, all in time to upbeat, techno music. Sound confusing? Not as much as it might seem. At first, it’s a bit intense, but then quickly turns downright addictive. Good exercise? You bet. Songs incorporate as few 80 or as many as 200 steps, all in about 90 seconds. Points are lost by missing cues or stepping against the beat, but who cares? It’s big fun and a great workout, and that’s all that matters.
Then, there’s Wii Fit, a video game developed by Nintendo for the Wii console. The game uses a platform peripheral called the Balance Board to calculate the user’s body mass index and take fitness-related tests based on user age, weight and athletic ability. Wii Fit currently offers about 50 different activities, including strength training, balance, yoga and aerobics games. Now, kids of all ages can snowboard through arctic valleys, lobby tennis balls and strike a downward dog pose, all in the comfort of their own living rooms.
In slightly a year following its launch, Wii Fit became the third best selling video game in history among games not packaged with a console. With stats like that, the fitness video game craze shows no signs of slowing.
If you’re concerned about your or your child’s low activity levels, but –sorry to be harsh– you’re not doing much to change it, it likely wouldn’t hurt to try fitness video games as a starting point. If this is a way to increase your level of fitness, then perhaps it’s worth a shot. Fitness video games are a great way for shut-ins or gym-phobics to get some exercise. They’re also a great way to engage in physical activity during inclement weather. If fitness club membership dues or private trainer fees won’t go to good use, consider buying a fitness video program.
A few caveats: Wii Fit isn’t recommended for those over 300 pounds. The system can be very difficult to track down, as they fly off the shelves as quickly as they’re stocked. Many people have had luck finding them on eBay, however.
Remember, though, how often you or your children use fitness video games is up to you. It’s not doing anybody any good if the console is gathering dust in the closet.