Preparing for the Bikini Summer
The key topic of conversation in the office this week has been fitness. I don’t know whether it’s the puzzling tendency for otherwise non-religious girls to give up chocolate for lent, or the recent spell of hot weather reminding us of the imminent approach of beach season but becoming tanned, buff and bikini ready is now officially the order of the day. There is no denying that I am unashamedly impressionable and I have never been one to ignore a trend, but unlike my gym favouring colleagues I simply cannot stand the idea of spending hours a night sweating in front of a mirror in a room full of strangers whilst earning absolutely no achievement points and paying a fortune for the privilege. No, there had to be a better way.
Now you may be reading this and thinking that the answer to my quest for gaming fitness is an easy one and that Wii Fit Plus would solve all of my problems and have me bikini ready before I could say ‘balance board’. Yet, whilst contemplating the cost of a Wii (and the bag of mini eggs hidden at the back of my fridge) my mind began to wander back to my teenage years and my first ever experiences of music based gaming. There is no denying that at the fresh young age of seventeen I was fitter, and thinking back I owed this fitness not to a traditional work out but instead to the long hot hours spent in my room completely addicted to the Dancing Stage games. I began to ponder whether in my quest for a fitter Mii I would be better off actually bypassing the new and going retro. It was time for another experiment.
Having moved on a little from the initial Dancing Stage games on my beloved PS2, I decided to pit Dancing Stage Universe 2 on the XBox 360 against Wii Fit Plus in a battle to see which would be able to truly get my heart racing. Not having much experience in the field of personal fitness my simple experiment would go something like this; I would play Wii Fit Plus for 30 minutes, taking my pulse before and after so that I could monitor the changes in my heart rate. I decided to focus on the jogging and step training aspects of the game as I thought that these would probably give me a cardio workout most likely to produce an increased heart rate. I would then take a break to allow my heart rate to return to resting before playing 30 minutes of Dancing Stage Universe 2 and taking my pulse again. In addition to monitoring my pulse throughout I would also make notes of how physically tired I was feeling, how well the game adapted to my fitness needs and of course how much enjoyment I felt whilst playing. Game on.
Having so far only had limited contact with the Wii I embarked on Wii Fit Plus with a positive and energetic attitude. My heart rate measured 72bmp when resting and I decided to start with a session of step training. Using the Wii Fit balance board I was required to step repeatedly up and down to a rhythm, replicating a gym style step class. Though initially I found this session entertaining it did not last for the fifteen minutes required, leaving me with little choice but to repeat exactly the same set of steps a further 3 times. The game did not really give me a change to increase the pace or the difficulty of the step training making it not only unable to adapt to my fitness needs but also without real challenge. You can probably guess how this felt to a gaming girl; boring. In addition to this the 3 sessions of step training did not leave me feeling particularly tired nor out of breath, and so it was with this that I decided to move on for fifteen minutes of jogging. I am pleased to say that the jogging proved not only more tiring but a little more entertaining as well. Leaving the quite dull and somehow clinical looking step studio I was now encouraged to go outside for a jog through the park, following a group of my fellow Mii’s as well as a Mii dog for pace. This time it was the Wii remote which was used, monitoring the motion created by jogging on the spot to set your pace and allowing the game to chart your progress. The varying scenery and addition of the pacing aspect made the jogging much more entreating than I had expected, and I was definitely starting to get short of breath by the end. I jogged for fifteen minutes before checking my pulse for the final result.
After a sit down (and a couple of the mini eggs) my heart rate was back to a steady 72bpm, and it was time for the Dancing Stage. Already familiar with the Dancing Stage series I chose to bump up the difficulty to difficult and knuckle down for half an hour of floor pounding rhythmic fun. By stepping and jumping in time with the rhythm, this work out proved much more entertaining from the outset. Being the competitive type, the scoring system and desire to never miss a beat gave me great motivation to keep going, making the 30 minutes go incredibly quickly in comparison to the 30 minutes with the Wii Fit. The layout of the game proved quite flexible allowing me to pick songs of varying speeds and difficulties letting me truly customize my work out allowing me to get my heart racing and keep it racing for almost the entire 30 minute session. The one real downside to using this game to get fit was the lack of tools to help you monitor your fitness. Though the game does have a work out mode I found it much harder to use than that of its retro cousins and definitely felt that the fitness stats were not displayed as clearly as they were in Wii Fit. Still, you do have the opportunity to earn achievement points while you work out, bonus.
The hard part was over and it was time to assess the results. Though the Wii Jogging proved more entertaining than the Wii step training, sadly neither succeeded in really giving me the workout session I needed in preparation for the beach. The 30 minute session did raise my heart rate but only to 84bpm; mere 12 beats above my resting heart rate of 72bpm. In contrast to this the Dancing Stage Universe produced a much more impressive result, raising my heart rate by 44 beats to a truly out of breath 116bpm.
Though this was not perhaps the most scientific experiment ever conducted it is certainly proof enough for me. It is for this reason that this year I will be dancing, and not stepping or jogging on my road to summer fitness. Though this time I decided to go retro the experience has also opened up my curiosity about the possible fitness value of other games. New technologies such as Kinect on the XBox 360 and Move on the PS3 are also opening up a whole world of not only physically demanding, but also extremely enjoyable gaming, bringing fitness and gaming closer than ever before. Now if only I could convince my girlfriends to ditch the gym and break out the XBox. Well, never say never…
Until next time,