Do Fitness Video Games Work?

  • By Dr. Anand Thakkar
  • 16 Mar, 2016
A few years ago, the video game industry started to break into the fitness world. Exercise games proliferated. Manufacturers began incorporating fitness oriented sensors and components in their video game consoles. And while this segment of the industry boomed, some people still wonder: do fitness games actually work?

Fitness and video games don’t seem to go together for multiple reasons. In fact, it seems like people interested in either video games or fitness would both have reasons to doubt these games' effectiveness. Gamer’s don’t want to exercise and fitness-conscious people don’t want to stay at home.

Despite the doubts, these video games actually work well. Video games engage both the mind and body, making exercise that much more effective. And with so many types of games to play, you can pick the game that meets your gaming preferences and exercise techniques. We will explain more about this phenomenon here so you can decide whether video game exercise is right for you.  

The Science of Video Game Exercising

To make exercise worthwhile to you, you must find activities that both physically and emotionally engage you. Exercises must present an easy way to move and burn calories. However, they must also keep you motivated. Video games do both of these things well, making video game exercising (or "exergaming") an effective form of physical activity.

The Physical Effects of Gaming

Exercise games rely on fast and sustained movement to work out your body. These cardio-boosting tasks burn calories and get your heart pumping.

Here is one example of how regular exercise compares to exergaming. A boxing game on the Wii U can burn 7.2 calories in a minute, for a total of 216 calories burned in half an hour. By comparison, an average person burns around 100 calories after running a mile. This comparison shows how even one of the less active games on the market can provide comparable opportunities for exercise.

As a result, active video games may make a significant difference in becoming fit and losing weight. Several studies showed that children who participated in active versus passive video games saw meaningful gains in activity and weight loss compared to their passive peers. In addition, people who played active video games gained faster reflexes, lower heart rates, and a generally more active lifestyle.

The Psychological Effect of Gaming

If you have tried an exercise program, you might notice how much effort it takes to stay motivated. You might lose motivation or get tired of the exercises you have tried. Video games sustain your motivation by making the effort fun.

These games provide concrete goals and rewards for improvement. As you advance in levels, you can feel a sense of accomplishment outside of the exercise itself. And with a video game, you don’t have to rely solely on your own willpower to exercise. Video games are still games, so they engage everyone from the high-intensity fitness guru to the most serious gamers.

What Games Should You Consider?

The fitness video game genre has many titles. Also, several other games outside the fitness category still provide meaningful forms of activity. Here are a few of the top games that give you the best exercise with the highest entertainment value.

Dance Dance Revolution

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was one of the first active games to hit the shelves. The game plays music with dance moves that you match with a connected floor mat. While the game doesn’t seem like much, it’s perhaps one of the most active and fun party games available.

Just Dance

Just Dance follows the same concept of DDR, except it uses motion-sensing cameras to capture your movements. You can free-style as you like and still work off the pounds.

Wii Sports

Wii Sports revolutionized active gaming. The Wii’s motion-capture remotes allow your movements to interact with the game itself. Wii Sports transfers those motions into different sports like baseball, tennis, bowling, and boxing. While these sports don’t deliver the most active workout, they do provide an entertaining one.

Wii Fitness

Once Nintendo saw the success of Wii Sports, it released Wii Fitness. Wii Fitness uses a balancing board to measure your weight and stance, allowing you to access more effective workouts. Wii Fitness allows you to program your workouts, giving you the chance to create your own fitness plan.

Xbox Fitness

Xbox broke into the fitness market with its Kinect software, one of the more popular motion-capture cameras on the market. Xbox Fitness gives you programs that work in-sync with popular workout moguls like Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson.

These choices, of course, are just the beginning. You have many more options available if you just start looking. If you need a new way to work out or want a fun way to start, then you should take advantage of video game exercising.
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