Video games can help you break the lack of exercise due to the pandemic

(CNN) – Some discover their preferred method of exercise very early and have the self-discipline to stay with it for decades. The rest of us got a little bored.

Among the many challenges posed by the pandemic, some much more urgent than others, is the inability to bring our exercise routines to life. Gymnasiums and exercise studios are closed or it is risky to go. Team sports are far from ideal due to the pandemic. Zoom classes and courses on YouTube are better than nothing, but one-sided interaction makes it very easy to take it to 50% or less.

Outdoor exercise becomes less and less attractive as temperatures drop and the sun sets before you have a chance to digest your lunch.

If you also find it difficult to motivate yourself these days, you might consider fitness video games. Even if you are not an amateur player. And even if you never practice.

Benefits of exercising during quarantine 3:32

Why move with video games

Exercise video games require you to use your whole body to participate in the game, rather than using your fingers. They have grown in sophistication and variety in recent decades and are designed to give you an extra incentive to exercise. Some do this by playing the session, while others monitor movement and track progress. Send text messages to friends instead of another round? The game will know.

“Fitness games give us an immediate paycheck because we’ve done something worthwhile in the long run,” said Renee Gittins, executive director of the International Association of Game Developers, who has been a consultant in the development of fitness video games. . “Unfortunately, people are not good at processing long-term benefits, so immediate positive feedback can be a great way to encourage habit building.”

Important Note: If you feel pain when you perform any movement while playing a fitness video game, stop immediately. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

A wide variety of exercise video games

There is something for almost everyone when it comes to games fitness.

A few games of fitness they are like videos with personal trainer exercises or sessions, but with an extra interactive twist. Fitness Boxing on Nintendo Switch guides users through a challenging and personalized boxing workout. There are also Zumba games for a variety of systems, which use controllers or motion sensors to track movements and progress.

Visitors play Arms on the Nintendo Switch console during its German premiere in Offenbach, Germany, January 13, 2017.

Other video games fitness they provide a more imaginative framework for exercises. Arms, which is available on the Nintendo Switch, is a fighting game in which users choose from a variety of custom, expandable weapons and try to eliminate opponents in different scenarios. Common Sense gives you consent for children over 10 years old.

Beat Saber, which is a virtual reality game available on PlayStation 4 and other devices, allows users to cut blocks that represent musical rhythms in a neon universe. Ring Fit Adventure, a Nintendo Switch game that comes with a physical ring, is an action game in which users roam a large, brightly colored virtual world and defeat enemies. It offers one of the most challenging workouts.

A visitor plays the Ring Fit Adventure game at the Nintendo booth during the third international exhibition in China, on November 6, in Shanghai.

Dance Dance Revolution is one of the oldest fitness video games, dating back to the late ’90s and requiring a floor stand to track movement. The latest versions can be played on a PC; the oldest are compatible with Xbox and PlayStation. Just Dance is a simpler and more suitable dance game for children, Gittins said.

Dance games are especially good for increasing your heart rate, which can help your body and mind.

Those with a virtual reality system have a wide range of deeply made fictional worlds, such as Sprint Vector, which mixes extreme sports with an intergalactic game show. Those without a system can try mobile games such as Pokémon Go and Harry Potter Wizards Unite, both of which require users to move outdoors and are also good for children.

The Harry Potter Wizards Unite app can encourage children and parents to travel outdoors.

Tip: For those of you who have a system and would prefer to try a game before you buy one, there’s a decent chance that your local library has one that you can borrow.

The call of video games

For many, the ease of these workouts at home is the great attraction.

Hweimei Tsou, a 31-year-old self-identified player and digital communications manager in the San Francisco Bay Area, had never been in a training rhythm before Fitness Boxing. She appreciates how easy the games are fitness to integrate into your program and that you can get a personalized and specific training adapted to your sense of competence. And he finds it funny.

San Francisco resident Hweimei Tsou works at home with Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch. Here he does knee raises.

“Even when you start the game, it tells you how many calories you burned this week,” Tsou said. “The game helps you find your sweet spot (in terms of exercise intensity), and then keeps you moving, pushing you to the limit.”

Fitness video games are also appealing to those who do not feel comfortable training in front of others.

Duane Montague, a 51-year-old account manager in Chino Hills, California, lost 30 pounds through Xbox Fitness, which is now discontinued. It’s something the creative guy who describes himself doesn’t think would have happened in the gym.

“The idea of ​​going to the gym, or running on a treadmill or lifting weights … it’s not me,” Montague said.

Through videos and sensors, he was able to slowly build his strength and endurance and make sure he made the right moves. Eventually, he increased his confidence in fitness and went to the hall; the game became his additional training.

Another advantage of games fitness is that you can compete virtually or practice with a friend or family member elsewhere, as long as both parties have the game and an internet connection. Games like Just Dance, Arms and Beat Saber have multiplayer capabilities.

How games are made fitness

Make games of fitness It tends to be an elaborate process, involving a combination of game designers, sports scientists and testing audiences and can take years, Gittins said. Often, the goal is to do something that appeals to a wide audience and not just the players.

“The development of the game is an extremely iterative process. It can be very difficult to define fun, “he said. “They want to make you forget you’re moving.”

One participant plays Beat Saber, a PlayStation virtual reality game, at the Consumer Electronics Show International on January 7, 2019, in Las Vegas.

There are developers who emphasize the fun and fantastic part of the game, and others focus more on the exercise experience. Some do both.

“Nintendo, for example, often works with fitness professionals to make sure it encourages proper movement and work of different muscle groups,” he said.

As with all workouts, it’s a good idea to start slowly.

How to make the most of games fitness

Julien Tripette, a researcher in sports and physical activity at the Japanese National Institutes of Biomedical Innovation, Health and Nutrition, said users of these games should be aware of the limitations of games if they become their main source of exercise. .

Tripette and her colleagues investigated the effectiveness of active video games and found that they do not necessarily lead to a sustained improvement in fitness.

“Laboratory studies of active video games are promising,” he said, explaining that some games require as much effort as their offline counterparts. “But real-life studies are more controversial,” Tripette said.

The problem, he said, is that games often lose their appeal over time and are not replaced by another form of exercise. Or they weren’t pretentious enough in the first place.

There are active video games that are effective for toning muscles or improving balance, but fail to increase heart rate and therefore do not improve cardiovascular health.

Tripette said research says active video games are better than nothing for most people, especially for those of us who are buried at home this winter pandemic, although they are a little less sure about children. Playing active video games did not encourage more general movement or improve fitness in children, according to a 2012 study.

That being said, this research took place long before advances in the graphics, systems and conditions of the shelter in place. Today’s children and their parents may see different results.

Given the high levels of claustrophobic anxiety that so many people anticipate over the next few months, there has never been a better time to experience video games. fitness. Like Montague, who started physical activity with a video game, maybe you can use it as a starting point for a more complicated exercise routine. You may even want to invest in a simple heart rate tracker with your new game.

Ensuring results can be as simple as asking if you sweat during the game. Does your heart beat faster (check that monitor!) And do you return to the game regularly? If the answer is yes to all of the above, these games could simply be the virtual fitness shake that the whole family needs to establish a fun, pandemic-safe habit.

Elissa Strauss is a regular contributor to CNN, where she writes about parental politics and culture.