Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Zelda... aside from seriously working the fingers, plus the occasional shoulder and back action as your body uncontrollably gets into the gaming action, video games of the past were, yes, sedentary activities. Not anymore. The Wii put fitness gaming on the map, and now with the new Kinect for Xbox, "playing" a video game can rival, if not beat, any gym workout (a fact that some personal trainers are expressing concerns over).
E3, the annual video game expo, showcased some of the most technologically advanced in video gaming. Yes, there were lots of games that require little more than finger movements. And then there were those that, even just doing the demo, leaves you sweating buckets. Kinect for Xbox takes gaming to a whole new level. Forget handheld controls, balance boards, arm and leg straps, you are the controller. If you want to jump, you have to jump. If you want to kick, you have to kick. The game reads everything you do.
Some video games, like Your Shape Fitness Evolved, are taking full advantage of the personalized nature of the Kinect and have even taken it a step further: putting you IN the game so you can see yourself on the screen doing yoga, dancing, working out with your in-game trainer, boxing, and hula hooping. Beyond seeing yourself, the game actually takes your body's measurements, then computes your every movement, letting you know what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong, helping to improve your moves and minimize your chances of injury. Because there are so many workouts to choose from, including workouts that get progressively more difficult as you advance in ability (like working with a trainer), as well as workouts set in beautiful and exotic environments, you will never get bored. You also have the freedom to choose a game or activity that fits your specific mood and time frame.
Quickie Workout: Got 5 minutes and really need to get out some frustration? Virtual Smash will allow you punch and kick your way to a better mood while getting your heart pounding and muscles firing.
Calming Workout: Just need to calm down during your 15 minute break? Zen helps ease your body and mood through fluid yoga and Tai Chi poses.
Serious Workout: Want to get a serious butt kicking workout that you know will leave you sore in the morning? Celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson (who trains people like Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Lopez, and Sofia Vergara) created a workout that will work you, without the $$$ personal training price tag. Oh, and the outcome from all of this exercise? Weight loss, muscle tone, and health enhancement that you get excited to come back to day in and day out.
But is Fitness Gaming Green?
Getting outside and going for a run, doing yoga in your backyard, or putting yourself through a boot camp workout are definitely greener. But many of us need more motivation than that to stick with a workout long enough to lose weight, and then, beyond that, keep it off. And that's why gyms are so popular. Problem is: gyms are innately environmental-depleters. Not only do you have to get in your car to drive there. But then the place is powered up a dizzying amount of lights, then buzzing with electrically charged cardio equipment that guzzles energy like it's water (the average treadmill uses between 600 and 700 watts of energy- even more for heavier exercisers), oh, water which is also wasted thanks to the shower rooms, Jacuzzis, and even the amount of towels that have to be washed after every use.
The Xbox, in comparison, uses an average of 119 watts of energy while in Active Mode, it's not on all day, and you don't have to drive there to use it. Once you lose the weight (which you will, if you stick with it), you will be consuming less and therefore minimizing your environmental footprint. I know, some people like the social component of gyms. Thankfully Your Shape has an online game center that, when your xbox is connected to the internet, automatically uploads your stats and allows you to virtually compete with other gamers, setting goals and seeing who has the best score.
Of course, losing weight and keeping it off isn't just about exercise, it's about lifestyle choices, daily decisions, and diet. But at least you've finally found a workout that not only works, but you actually enjoy doing.