Introduction to Exercise + Gaming = Exergaming

Game People explores Exergaming.

Let’s go back to January. After a long break watching TV, eating rich meals and nibbles to your heart’s content, you now have to start back at work. You soon need something to look forward to – the first holiday of the year. Rather than a cold rainy commute to the grind you imagine yourself on the beach in the warm sun. So much for the mind, what about the body?

To get in shape for summer you resolve to join the gym or start cycling and running on a regular basis. You think that’s enough to get the beach friendly body you desire. Your new exercise regime should work, if only you could stick with it. But the odds are against you – surveys on new gym members every year show that by April their attendance is nonexistent.

Simply put, it’s hard to find the time to workout when there are so many more enjoyable things to do. Exercise gets boring fast and becomes a real effort. Now it’s June, your summer holiday is mere weeks away and the clothes from last year just don’t fit. And worse, it’s too late to do anything about it – despite wild advertising claims anyone can lose 20 lbs in one week by some ridiculous means – it’s just not going to happen.

What went wrong here? You gave up regular exercise. But maybe you’d have kept up your regime if only it wasn’t so baring and time consuming. Exercise will always be an effort (that’s sort of the point), but maybe I can make it more fun for you, let me introduce fitness gaming.

Let’s look at the most generic piece of kit on the market for example. You plug an exercise machine into your games console, put your favourite video game in and play while you work out. The Gamercize kit I am referring to pauses the action should you stop your workout, so no slacking off!

Now you can happily executing reloads, double jumps, fastest laps and smack downs (or whatever it is your favourite game has to keep you amused) at the same time as getting fit. This simple bit of kit combines video games and exercise so now you can be a fitness gaming. Fun eh? Exercise may feel a little clumsy at first, but the body is very adaptable and after ten minutes you will be well into your stride.

Playing the game while you work out is not only fun, but has the added benefit of distracting your brain from the pain of those basic motor functions. Just like when I go out for a long run, the mind starts to wonder as the rhythm of running settles in. Sometimes it almost feels like I am a passenger and there is no conscious physical effort. As you continue playing the games you are not only solving the problem of exercise being boring but also getting two things done at the same time. The result is a much better chance for you to keep on working out.

And as you pedal, step or jog away with no conscious effort something strange starts to happen. A wonderful drug starts to be pumped around your system. A little upper called endorphins, that will make you feel on cloud nine. In a response to prolonged exercise these chemicals are produced – often referred to as the ‘runners high’ – and result in pleasure and enthusiasm to keep going. Not only this, but our brain’s neurons also benefit resulting in increased learning capacity, memory function and general motor response.

There you have it, games and exercise are a match made in heaven. Whether you invest in an Exercaming peripheral, Wii-Fit or just jog on the spot while you play GTA IV, you never had a better reason to keep exercising.

[This is a guest post by Luke Pyper]

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