Active gaming, or exergaming as it’s more widely known, is the happy marriage of advanced video game technology and physical activity. Exergames go far beyond the simple hand and finger movements that define most video games to actively work major muscle groups.
Perhaps the earliest, almost addictive example of the genre was “Dance Dance Revolution,” which combined on-screen instructions with a sensor-laden mat to encourage players to perform ever more complex dance moves and sequences. Today, however, exergames run the gamut from yoga to boxing and everything in between.
If you have someone in your home that isn’t easily motivated to exercise, exergaming might be a great alternative to traditional workouts. In fact, in some cases, exergaming is even better than going to the gym. Here are six reasons why.
1. It’s Fun.
Boredom is one of the major impediments in getting people to commit to a regular exercise routine. Let’s face it, the fun factor is sorely lacking in many traditional exercises, whether it’s an aerobics class at the gym or going for a run. Exergaming, on the other hand, is just plain fun. Even aging adults enjoy games like Zumba Fitness and Wii Tennis, which actually burns nearly four calories a minute (318 per hour). Adults who play five 10-minute Wii Tennis games, three days per week, for example, meet the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity.
2. It’s Social.
Sure, there are usually lots of other people in the gym when you go for a workout, but how often do you really have any social interaction with your exercising peers? Even in a class, most people are too focused on their own activities to really engage with their classmates. Many exergames, on the other hand, encourage multi-player gaming either with friends at home or virtual friends online, with real-time communication with other players to encourage one another, share tips for improvement, and even challenge each other in head-to-head matchups.
3. You Can Actually Measure Your Results—in Real Time.
Over time, if you’re lifting weights at the gym or doing a spin class, you’ll see improvement: You can lift more weights or move up to a more challenging class. But there’s not much in the way of immediate rewards. With exergaming, on the other hand, you can see your results (and improvement) right on the scoreboard as you play. That can be extremely motivating for many people who otherwise aren’t inclined to exercise.
4. There’s So Much Variety.
People who struggle to stay motivated doing the same old thing over and over love the variety available in exergaming. Kickboxing, golf, slalom skiiing, ballroom-style dancing, yoga, boot camp aerobics—these are just a few of the activities you can do at home on your game console, so there’s never an excuse to get bored.
5. It’s Less Expensive than a Gym Membership.
You do need to get a game console, but if you live in a household with kids, chances are good you already have one. And if buying games sounds like a costly proposition, most public libraries have games you can borrow for free with a library card. If you exergame at home, you can avoid monthly gym membership fees, costs associated with parking and getting to and from the gym, and even all the little extras you buy at the gym that add up fast: Sports drinks, protein bars, even special exercise outfits.
6. You Can Exercise on Your Schedule.
You don’t have to rearrange your schedule to make it to your favorite Pilates class or drag yourself to the gym after a full day at work if you exergame at home. If you can only find time to exercise at odd hours when the gym is closed, you can still do your favorite activities at home. Best of all, if you can only find 20 minutes on a busy day to squeeze in some exercise, you can turn on your game console and get a good workout—you could never find time to get to the gym and work out in 20 minutes.
Video games do get a bad rap sometimes, especially when kids get addicted to a game to the exclusion of all other healthy activities. But this addictive quality can actually be a real benefit when it comes to exergaming; it’s a powerful motivation to keep them moving and burning calories when other activities don’t. Why not give it a try?