Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ready, Set, Sweat—Video Game Style

Posted By on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 2:42 PM


Wheeeeeeee ... or is that Wii?

Maybe you got a Wii home console for Christmas—coloring it anyway you want from “it’s for the family” to “hey, some of those puzzle-type games look educational” to even “I can watch Netflix on it”—and the luster has already worn off. You've already forgotten about it, like your New Year’s Eve resolution to get in better shape.

Let’s be honest: what out-of-shape person really wants to go to a gym and sweat in front of strangers?

Enter the Wii.

The game console has a number of home fitness programs available, including Wii Fit, but also two recent releases: Zumba Fitness and NFL Training Camp.

Zumba Fitness

This title has flown off store shelves. It’s a combination of dance moves and aerobic exercise—it even comes with a belt that holds the Wii remote, which is a motion-sensitive device, on your hip and allows the Wii sensor to “see” your movements. Too embarrassed to be shaking like that in front of the relatives during the holidays, I let my daughter give it a whirl. The exercise schemes come in a variety of flavors—as in easy dance-step routines, and more intense gyrations where you want to make sure the fine china is secured on shelves before you get the floorboards bouncing), and customized workouts are available.

Zumba is basically an aerobic workout based on dance moves. There are warm-up dances, main workouts and cool-down dances. There is the music and an on-screen instructor, as well as a silhouette that represents you, the player. Mimicking the instructor, the silhouette shows how well you are doing. Keep the silhouette green and you are in the groove. Go to yellow, and you are slightly off track. Red means you have two left feet.

The music is lively, the dancing can be frenetic and the instructors—both male and female—are encouraging. The main idea is to sweat off a few unwanted pounds and get in better overall shape. The secondary benefit is that if you go dancing in the real world, you will have a few moves down to show off.

Zumba is one currently a work-out craze and Zumba Fitness really captures the spirit and essence of the workout with that added benefit of being able to do it at home … alone … where no one can see and/or laugh at you (unless, of course, you have relatives visiting).

NFL Training Camp

No, this will not make you the next Denver Broncos quarterback. It’s a licensed product that carries a licensed product price tag of about $100 and presents a wide range of exercise routines that are loosely associated with football with instructors that kind of look like active NFL players.

The box comes with the Wii Active 2.0, which includes a heart-rate monitor that wraps around the forearm, a sensor for the right thigh to monitor movements and a resistance band like the ones used in isometric exercises. Workouts can target lower body, upper body, cardio or overall. Each of the routines is demonstrated and then has users performing the routines. Dion Sanders tosses in a few comments here and there, everything is generally encouraging and there is a leaderboard for points accumulated during the routines. Those leaderboards are usually dominated by active NFL players, but knocking off a few can be a sure way to produce a sweat-stained smile.

While there are monitors, the user still has to hold on to the Wii remote. This plays a role in some of the exercises. Say you run a DB (defensive back) routine. This involves lunges to corners, pointing the Wii remote as you do them, holding them, then performing a motion that has you standing in place but moving your feet as quickly as possible. A ball is launched and at the right time, you move your arms to catch it. The hand-held Wii remote monitors that timing, the monitor on your leg measures the speed of the foot thrum and the heart-rate monitor makes sure you are still alive during and afterwards.

While family games like Pictionary, which features a uDRAW tablet for the Wii remote to fit into are all fine and dandy, and sitting around watching Netflix using the Wii is a nice diversion as well, the Wii console has so many other uses that it’s a shame to let it merely sit there—like your muscles.

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