By Jonathan Moffie
The Active Times
As we outsource more and more of our lives to the digital world, video games that get us off the couch and into the action have started to go mainstream in a big way.
First the Nintendo Wii had us waving our arms around madly, and then, in 2010, Sony unveiled the PlayStation Move and Microsoft introduced its motion sensing Kinect system for Xbox.
"Exergames" -- yes, fitness video games now fall into their own hybrid category—have come a long way since the days of the Power Pad, and have since proved to be a highly effective way to introduce physical activity into what was once considered the most sedentary of hobbies.
They have been found to improve hand-eye coordination, balance, stability and cardio. A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics recommends using exergames to improve children’s health, and at least one popular game, Dance Dance Revolution, is becoming a regular part of physical education programs around the country.
|15 Made-In-USA Bike Products|
But savvy video game makers know that exergames aren’t just fun for kids. Games like Zumba Fitness and UFC Personal Trainer attempt to make working out more engaging and accessible to a wide range of people. Tie-ins like The Biggest Loser Challenge bring celebrity trainers into your living room: imagine having Jillian Michaels on hand to whip you into shape.
Exergames don’t have to be virtual gyms to get your heart pumping. Cardio is almost a byproduct of Kinect Adventures, for example; and when you play any number of sports games you’ll find yourself simulating the actual thing -- at least well enough to break a sweat.
With new games coming out every year for the Wii, Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move, we decided to sort through some of the best -- recent classics and new and state of the art -- to pick 11 games that are sure to get you moving.
This game brings Jillian Michaels from the hit NBC show "The Biggest Loser" right into your living room to help you get in shape with over 125 exercises. The Biggest Loser also provides a diet plan to help keep you on track while you try to lose weight. While not as intimidating in avatar form, Jillian Michaels still goads you to shed pounds with scary motivational quotes such as, "I don’t care if you both die on this floor -- you better die looking good."
Xbox 360, Wii; from $19.31 on Amazon
The original Dance Central set itself apart by teaching you real dance moves that you could theoretically be proud to show off at a nightclub. This latest edition includes a soundtrack featuring over forty new tracks, from disco-era throwbacks to recent hits. In this game you mirror the moves of your on-screen dance instructor, so if you’re perfecting the moves, then you’re definitely getting a solid workout.
Xbox 360; $37.46 on Amazon.
You know something’s popular when it's known worldwide by an abbreviation. Starting as a hit arcade game, DDR is the pioneering rhythm and dance video game that sparked its own fitness initiative in schools and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Most Widely Used Video Game in Schools."
All major platforms; $42.95 with mat controller on Amazon
This game is best enjoyed with friends. Just Dance 4 allows for up to four players to compete against each other in a dance-off, and on-screen lyrics can turn this game into a karaoke party. Reviewers say that performing the game's wacky dance moves gives a moderate workout.
All major platforms; $19.99 on Amazon
Kinect Adventures is a "throw in" game when you buy Microsoft’s Kinect. It’s meant for the whole family and was designed to show off the full body movement that makes Kinect unique. With games called River Rush and 20,000 Leagues, Kinect Adventures takes your family through obstacle courses and whitewater rafting. The game is fast-paced and you’re always on the move.
Xbox 360; Free with Kinect Sensor ($97.65 on Amazon)
Kinect Sports was Microsoft's way of competing with the once wildly popular Wii Sports. This latest edition has 13 mini-games including football, golf, baseball, skiing, tennis, darts, soccer, bowling, beach volleyball, table tennis, boxing, basketball, and track & field. When playing Kinect Sports, you can't get away with lazy controller movements like you can with the Wii and PlayStation Move. The full range of movement that Kinect demands makes this the best workout of the Sports collection games.
Xbox 360; $33.30 on Amazon
The first edition of this game was bundled with PlayStation Move, Sony's own entry into the motion sensing video game market. You can compete in 11 different sports including tennis, archery, skiing, beach volleyball and boxing. The game is designed for a wide-range of sports fans and the sport you prefer determines the workout you’ll get—boxing against a friend is going to burn calories at a much faster rate than bowling, for example.
PlayStation Move; $14.62 on Amazon
Testosterone-fueled men are the once-marginalized fitness video game audience that Microsoft and UFC had in mind when making this game. This game was originally designed for the full body movements of Kinect, but is now available for Wii and PlayStation Move. Game testers have noted that UFC Personal Trainer has a difficult time tracking body movement, sometimes making for a sub-par workout. The main upside, though, is the ability to compete with a friend standing next to you, or over the Internet.
All major platforms; from $14.48 on Amazon
Wii Fit U is set to hit stores in December of this year. It will come with a balance board that can measure your weight and optimal balance, the Wii gamepad that allows you to play without a TV screen, and the new Fit Meter that will track your exercises both in and out of the house. With the Wii balance board already called, “the best-selling bathroom scale in the world,” Nintendo is trying to incorporate Wii Fit U and exercise throughout your day.
Wii; $59.99 at Best Buy
Nintendo revamped Your Shape Fitness for 2013 to try and compete with Nike+ Kinect Training. The game helps you customize your burn by offering 125 different exercises and 200 different workouts. You will also receive diet advice and recipes for healthy meals from your on-screen personal trainer, and multiplayer mode lets your family workout together.
Wii; $38.99 on Amazon
Critics agree that Zumba Fitness offers a great cardio workout. Celebrity Zumba instructors work you through choreographed routines that, for the unacquainted, can be difficult to learn. But help is included: the game’s online community enables you to find actual Zumba classes near where you live.
Wii, Xbox 360; from $28.98 on Amazon
More Stories from The Active Times:
-- Best Discount Fitness Clothing
-- 11 Stretches You Should Never Do Before a Workout
-- 12 Top Headphones for Working Out
-- 6 Worthless Exercises You Probably Do