From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

By Matt Mayer, MSc.

The summer has arrived, but that does not mean that every day will be perfect weather for outdoor activity. Hot, rainy, humid weather – not to mention high pollution days – can often mean you just don 't get out to exercise. So, what's an active person to do?

One option can be virtual fitness games. Videogame makers have been creating new physical activity games for fun and entertainment – anything from doing aerobic exercise to playing tennis. Nintendo Wii started this revolution by introducing its motion-based controllers and games including Wii Fit. Since then, Microsoft 's Xbox 360 Kinect, and Sony 's Playstation 3 Move have been introduced to promote greater interaction and make games more physically demanding.

Research teams around the world have found that these games do have a place when it comes to combating the epidemic of physical inactivity. Children have been shown to get the exercise equivalent of light jogging or skipping when engaging in active video games. Researchers have also found that adults can achieve the needed intensity from activity-based video games in order to meet physical activity guidelines.

How to get started

Be aware that each console has a different way of incorporating player interaction, so select the console that best affords playability for your ability and environment. A variety of motion-based games will be available, each with their own level and unique way of interacting with the player. What you will need is a TV with an available AV connection (just like a DVD player).

Not sure how to play? Experience is not necessary. All you have to do is follow these steps:

Effort - This is something I cannot stress enough. This will be a new experience and you will need to embrace it. Feeling uncomfortable and acting silly can go hand-in-hand when you are trying something new. Treat this like a new activity class or sport. It will take a few tries to learn the basic moves but give it your best shot.

Follow instructions - Activity-based games often come with instructions or tutorials on how to play. Use them to learn how to do the moves and then practice. You may be tempted to cheat to make the game easier, but really you may actually cheat yourself out of the activity component of the game. The instructions are also there to prevent you from hurting yourself or damaging the console or television.

Try before you buy - Not sure if this is for you? Try a console and game out at a friend 's, in a store or renting before you purchase one. Treat this like a gym membership trial or getting a new piece of sports equipment. If you find that you are having a good time, you will be more likely to come back to it.

So are you ready to try something new? The next time you find that the outdoors is not an option, you want to supplement your current activity regime or maybe even find a common activity with your kids, give active videogames a try! The bonus? These virtual exercise games will come in handy when the snow flies, too!

Remember, it may be a video game, but it 's still considered an activity program. Before starting any new activity program or diet program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Matthew Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: July 2011

Heart and Stroke Foundation


Your use of the information in this article is subject to the Heart and Stroke Foundation Terms and Conditions of Use and therefore you agree to be bound by the implied terms and conditions in each of the following statements.

This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

™ - All trademarks, service marks, logos and articles are owned by and are the exclusive property of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ("HSFC") and authorized use is only granted under license. Such trademarks, service marks, logos and articles may not be reproduced, copied, imitated or used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of HSFC.

© - 2011. Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada