My experience with video and gaming workouts

A while back when I mentioned using the Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout for the Kinect, Carrie asked me what I thought of it, so I thought I’d answer in a blog post and expand it to include other electronic workout systems I’ve tried.

The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout for the Kinect begins with a body scan and a series of questions. There is a fitness test as well, and they recommend a fitness program or you can “do your own thing” and choose exercises you want to do. If you go with one of their programs, it tracks your progress. You can select light intensity, moderate, hard, etc. (they suggest an intensity based on your fitness test), how many times a week you want to work out, and how long you want your sessions to be, and which trainer you want. I started with a light intensity and 20 minutes a day six days a week.

Then each day when you log on, you just go to “Today’s Activities” for your workout of the day as well as choosing a diet or lifestyle task for the day (like eating part of an apple instead of a sugary snack or going for a 30-minute walk.)

I tried to take a few pictures of the screen during one workout:

That blue figure in the lower right hand corner is me — taking a picture instead of exercising. 🙂 The Kinect, if you’re not familiar with it, can “see” you, and that is the image it sees. It’s almost like a silhouette but more 3-D-ish. It does help in that you can see if you are positioning yourself like the trainer. It turns blue between exercises, green if you’re doing the exercise right, red if you’re doing it wrong, and a muddy color if you’re somewhere in-between.

The figure in the upper left corner gives you an idea where you are in the workout. I love seeing it get to the end! 🙂

They always have a random character in the back doing the exercises as well, and you can change its hair, eye color, shirt color, etc., to look like you if you’d like.

I apologize that this picture isn’t centered, but I was having trouble with balance in general at the moment. 🙂 I’ve mentioned before that my balance is not good since having transverse myelitis, and my foot is propped up on the couch behind me there, but Virtual Bob said that was okay. 🙂 But what I wanted to show in this picture were the bars above me, the ends of which also turn red or green depending on whether you’re doing the exercise correctly. Then at the bottom it shows how many calories you’re supposedly burning and how many repetitions you’ve done (on exercises that have repetitions: on something like this where you just hold position, the little blue bars go across the bottom til time is up.)

I didn’t think to have someone video the workout, but of course someone else did theirs and put it in Youtube:

Thought it was funny when his little character was eating pizza instead of exercising.

It also has a weigh-in once a week. It doesn’t have a way to weigh you in, so you have to get your weight some other way and then enter it. Also everything you do — how well you work out, your weight loss, your “lifestyle” tasks, etc. — all go into a “score.” I don’t pay much attention to that — I’m just happy if it keeps going up. They do have “challenges” like the show does once a week, but it is kind of silly — they just have you do certain exercises that propel your character toward whatever it is supposed to be accomplishing in the challenge. They also simulate the show’s weigh-in and eliminations, and yes, I was up for elimination the second week when I gained .9 lbs.! But I have lost every week since then.

So what do I think about it? Well, you definitely get a good workout. The whole first week I was achy and felt like I had the flu, even with just 20 minutes at light intensity. That went away after a while, but I do work up a good sweat every time. There is one setting that is such a high intensity you’re warned not to try it unless you are already in good shape, so I think any level could get an adequate workout. I like the silhouette and the fact that I don’t have to hold the controller. I have definitely developed more strength, stamina, and flexibility over the weeks I have used it — and lost 7 lbs. so far. (I’m not dieting per se yet — I know I need to work on that but I hate the tediousness of counting calories or grams or whatever. At this point I’m just cutting way back on sweets and trying to make general better choices in what I eat. I know when I do adjust my diet more the weight loss will increase, but I am pleased that just exercise and cutting back sweets has resulted in a 7 lb. loss so far.) They seem to use some of the same exercises a lot, but they do vary others, and just when I am on the verge of getting bored, they throw in a new one.

The down sides? Entering information is a little tedious. Since the Kinect doesn’t have a controller, you use your hand. To enter anything you have to hold your hand in the right position, and to enter information, like the weight you’ve gained or lost, you have to hold up or down arrows until it gets to the right place. It’s very hard to get that exact, because even when I am holding my hand still, onscreen it appears to move a bit.

Because of balance issues and bad knees, I can’t quite do every exercise they bring up, so I wish you could skip or eliminate some, but I haven’t seen that as an option (in the prescribed fitness program. If you’re just choosing random exercises to do, of course you can skip the ones you can’t do as well) . I do a modified version, so I know I am still moving and burning calories, but then you get the little red screen and silhouette saying you’re not doing it right, which is not really a big deal but it bugs me. On the other hand, some exercises that I couldn’t do at first I am able to do now for short periods, so I am sure that is one reason they don’t let you “skip” — we’d tend to just do the easier ones and then not really be challenged or strengthened.

I haven’t tried this game for the Wii, but it looks pretty similar except for showing your silhouette and having to have the controller on you. I haven’t watched the whole video here, but it looks like a higher intensity than what I use (I assume you can set the intensity for the Wii as well as the Kinect). Some of the catch phrases and tips are even the same as the Kinect:

I have tried Wii Fit, and you can get a good workout there as well, but they have a lot of emphasis on balance, which I don’t do well on. Wii Fit also weighs you with their balance board so you don’t have to go and do that separately. The more you do with the Wii, the more it unlocks new exercises, and that keeps it from getting boring.

It’s funny that though I detest boxing as a sport, I feel the most worked out on both the Kinect and Wii Fit with the boxing exercises.

I’ve also used the Biggest Loser Power Walk DVD and really enjoy it. It’s divided into 4 15-minute segments in which they take you through a number of steps that are supposed to equal a mile, and they add different types of steps, arm movements, even light weights (I used canned foods 🙂 ) to add variety and intensity. Though it is not the full-fledged workout of these video games, it does get your heart rate going. It doesn’t take long til you feel like you have everything they say memorized, and I am thinking of turning their sound off and listening to my own music or maybe even an audio book while working.

I’ve also had on my shelf for a while but just opened a DVD of the Biggest Loser 30 Day Jump Start. I haven’t looked at the bigger segments of it since I had already started with the Kinect, but they also have 10 minutes workouts for upper body, lower body, and cardio and they’re easily doable yet they do put you through good paces as well.

What I like about both DVDs is that they use previous contestants, and they don’t always get things just right — you’ll see one of them look for a minute at the trainer and then take a few steps before they get the rhythm right, or adjust their clothes, etc., and the fact that they’re not perfect makes you feel more comfortable than the video game characters. Plus they always give modified versions of what they’re doing if you can’t keep up or don’t have the equipment they do.

I’ve also years ago used several videos set to classical music by a teacher from my alma mater, Linda Haught, and I was just wishing they had been converted to DVDs — and I just found that many of them have been. In the video version, you start with the warm-up, then work as far as you want (she listed suggested stopping places depending on whether you were a beginner, etc.), then fast forward to the cool down: I am sure that process would be much easier with the DVD. The one I used most was “Wimp Aerobics,” which at the time was not as professionally done as her others, but was great for low impact workouts (her parents were her back-up exercisers.)

Really any of these will give you some exercise, with the convenience of being right there at home without having to take the time to go to a gym and pay their fees. I love the Kinect game and I think it does give me the best workout of all of these, but we already had a Kinect system — I don’t think I’d spend money to get the X-box and Kinect (they work together) just to get this game. But I think there are Biggest Loser games for just about any current video gaming system. And of course, there are other fitness games besides Biggest Loser ones — I just tend to gravitate towards them because I watch the show and know the name, so I have some idea of their background.

When I found I could handle the 20 minute workouts pretty well, I tried to up the intensity to 30 minutes. But when the next workout seemed to go on and on and on, I discovered I had set it to 40 minutes instead — twice as much as I was used to! The first day at 40 minutes seemed extremely long, but I was able to do it. Previously I had been doing 20 minutes with the Kinect game and then 15 with the Power Walk DVD, but when I started doing 40 minute workouts (and actually they go 43-48 minutes), I stopped the DVD. But sometimes the 40 minute workouts cycle through the same exercises, which gets boring. So I think I am going to go back to 30 minute workouts and then add either 15 minutes of the Power Walk DVD or one of the ten-minute segments from the 30 Day DVD. I’ve been working out with the Kinect 5 days a week, but I may go to three or four and then use something else on the other days just for variety.

So, that’s my regimen for now. This is the first time in a long time I’ve exercised regularly. To me the convenience of being able to do it from home helps: I would be much less motivated if I had to go somewhere else, but for some people that is more motivating than working from home. I am struggling with adding 40-50 minutes of exercise into my schedule, but I have become convinced that I need to do this, so I am trying to adjust getting everything else done around it.

On a side note, I’ve always used Bob as  trainer with the Kinect game, but once my son chose Jillian and did things wrong deliberately just to see if she’d yell at him, but she didn’t. 🙂 They do alternately compliment or “get after” you depending on how well you’re doing.

And there you have my experience. Have you tried any of these? What works for you?

11 thoughts on “My experience with video and gaming workouts

  1. Thanks for these thoughts, Barbara. I like hearing from real people like you. 🙂 With having so much winter out here, I’ve considered an indoor routine. I’ll be looking into these.

  2. FWIW, the “flu” feeling could just be your lymph system pumping toxins through now that it’s on the move. The lymph system is only cleared through physical movement…if only for this reason alone, exercise is well worth it!

  3. I commend you for getting your 20 minutes of exercise in each day for 6 days, I think any Doctor would be happy with that and it should help with things like Hypertension and High Cholesterol.
    I’ve been thinking of getting the dance game for Wii.
    I used to do Jazzercise and loved it.
    I also used the Richard Simmons tapes which were similar to dance and set to music.
    MamaBear

  4. We have a Wii, and Wes bought me Wii Fit Plus and EA Sports Active Fitness Trainer (or something like that). I haven’t used them much, partly because I’m lazy and would rather take a walk, and partly because we live in the upper part of our rental house and the owner lives in the basement suite. He works from home just like we do, so he’s home most of the time and I feel like I may be bothering him stomping around up here. I love the boxing on the Wii Fit, and I also like the step exercises. I like the exercise program on the EA Sports better, though. I don’t like the focus on yoga so much on the Fit.

    We’re looking at moving this fall, and looking more at basement suites than upper suites, so I’m planning to pick up the Fit and Sport again. Our current house has turned out to be more than we can afford due to changes in our support level over the past year, so a move is necessary. Sigh.

  5. LOL!!!! I love that he chose Jillian to see if she’d yell at him!! That is so awesome! ;D HAHAHAHAHA!

    Thank you for that helpful information. I have Jillian’s 30-Day Shred and I just got a Biggest Loser DVD workout video with Bob and I like flipping back and forth between the two because they emphasize SLIGHTLY different things. I find it helpful.

    We have a Kinect and a Wii. I like that the Wii game allows you to unlock new exercises. Because, as you pointed out, that would keep it from becoming boring. I find myself bored and wanting to skip exercises once I’ve figured out what the routine is. I like changing things up a bit so that I have to pay attention the trainers and keep up.

    And, as you said, the convenience of being able to work up a sweat while working out at home is worth the game price! I do not think I am remotely disciplined enough to warrant a gym membership at any time. Plus, with home workouts, I can do it after the kids are in bed for the night which I like.

    Anyway, thanks for answering with more details!

  6. Interesting, Barbara. I don’t have any kind of video gaming system…. I really have never played video games at all! I guess having boys in your house keeps you up on all those things. I’ve thought about the Wii, but I’ve never really seen it used, so I don’t know if I’d like it or use it or not. I have just been sticking to the treadmill–I can read and/or listen to music while walking, but that’s just walking, no other kind of exercise.

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