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The X Factor

by on April 27, 2013

X is, I imagine, always a hard post for the A-Z challenge.

But for Fat Guys, I have the newest thing for your figurative gym bag: an XBox controller.

I know, most fitness fanatics would make me do 20 burpees for even suggesting such a thing. Video games are one of the main causes of fatness, not fitness, right?

But technology like the XBox Kinect allows your game console to become your at-home personal fitness coach. “Games” like Nike+ Kinect and Your Fitness use the Kinect to track your movements and count calories burned and repetitions completed. They correct bad form or technique, and use visual and audio cues to provide a variety of fun and challenging workouts for beginners and intermediate fitness levels. (Ok, they claim they can challenge hardcore athletes, but having never been one, I am unqualified to assess that.)

Other actual games include fitness components as well. Dance Central 3, for example, has a Fitness mode that estimates calories burned as you jump and move to the music. Games like Junk Fu give you a rhythm challenge where instead of pushing buttons, you punch and kick your way to a high score. Now, neither of those are what I’d call a workout, but they give you something more for your time playing than the newest Madden or Call of Duty.

Nike+ Kinect offers some selection of workout programs as well as the quick start “go for X minutes” option. It has some challenges that allow you to compete with your friends and the worldwide leaderboard, like push-ups, “dodgeball,” or running with high knees. The game creates a workout routine for you based on your preferences, and it starts off with an assessment of your current fitness so that you can see how you’re improving as you progress through the long-term program. It offers two choices of personal trainer, one male, one female, and from what I can tell, they’re very positive and encouraging, challenging you to do your best, but still praising when your best today isn’t as good as you want it to be.

Your Fitness has a larger selection of activities, but seems to give less interaction. When performing various routines, the game tracks what steps you complete and what you miss. But it doesn’t really communicate with you about that. If you’re not watching closely, you can’t tell what it’s not counting. Still, Your Fitness has some interesting and fun games, and does a better job walking you through the moves and routines it wants you to learn.

Both offer some downloadable content, such as new workout packs focused on core and upper body strength, or a special aerobics class. Both also connect to apps on your iPhone that give you reminders and notifications about your accomplishments and upcoming workouts. Nike+ Kinect uses the same NikeFuel system that their other Nike+ products count, so if you’ve invested in the run tracking device or a FuelBand, then that’s an added bonus.

And the numerous pop-up achievements – especially when you first start out – are a sneaky way to motivate a gamer to do more activities and get even more GamerScore.

So, that’s the pros. Now, there’s a slight con:

Both also suffer from difficulty tracking your movement if you don’t have a large open space in which to work out. Our XBox is in our front room, which is maybe 10-12 feet across. With furniture and household stuff, my available workout area shrinks drastically, and the Kinect can’t see past some of the edges of the table or chairs. Even when I have an open space, sometimes the Kinect has difficulty seeing and counting every motion. For example, push-ups are often troublesome; on Nike+ Kinect, I often have to do two to get one counted. Maybe that’s a helpful feature to challenge me further… but in the middle of a workout, having my efforts not count is very frustrating. I have to believe that if your Kinect is set up properly and your space is open enough, you won’t have those problems.

Another con is that the XBox and Kinect are pricey (though that’s going down as we get closer to whatever the next-gen console will be). On top of that, you’re paying full price for fairly new games, so that’s probably $40-60, depending on where you shop. So it’s an investment if you don’t already have one.

I know there are several other fitness games and XBox coach programs, but these are two that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Do you have any experience with fitness games on the XBox, PS3, or Wii? Have you tried either of these two games? What have you enjoyed? Let me know in a comment, and maybe shoot me a friend request if you’re playing one of these two. I’m SonWorshiper on XBox live.

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From → Gym Bag

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