Battle winter blahs with active video games designed to help you strengthen, tone, and torch calories at home. Here, a look at the latest fitness titles for Kinect on Xbox 360By: Hollis Templeton
If jam-packed Spin classes and tired treadmill routines have you eagerly counting down the days ‘til spring—and forgoing a few of your weekly workouts—it’s time for a mid-winter fitness intervention. What we have in mind: escaping the elements with a new breed of active video games that simulate experiences such as taking a Zumba class on a Miami yacht, jogging the streets of Paris, and practicing your serve on a sun-soaked tennis court—all from the comfort of your at-home exercise space.
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Designed for use with Kinect for Xbox 360, the latest exergames employ Kinect’s motion-sensing technology. As a game tracks your body’s movements, it calculates your calorie burn based on your intensity, height, weight, age, and gender—no heart rate monitor needed. (Search: What are the best video games for weight loss?)
If you’re consistent with your at-home workouts, you can expect results similar to those you would achieve at the gym, according to a review of studies by researchers at Michigan State University. Here, how four of Xbox’s latest releases can help make winter fitness fun again.
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The basics: The latest Zumba game guides you through 24 styles of dance, ranging from Meringue, Salsa, and Cumbia to Bollywood and Bachata. These steps are mixed into 42 routines led by six different instructors, whose 3D avatars appear on the screen in front of you. After choosing one of 10 venues—yacht, roof top, nightclub, music video set, and so on—up to two players are ready to groove. Select a single song and create a 20-, 45-, or 60-minute block of routines. You may also practice at your own pace with Learn the Steps, a tutorial that breaks down all the moves in a particular track and gives you feedback on whether your arms and legs are moving the right way. A running tally of the calories you’ve torched is kept on-screen.
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The body benefits: “Zumba works each muscle group as you dance,” says Gina Grant, one of the game’s choreographers. “There’s also a sense of freedom and exhilaration you get from the experience that can have a positive impact on your overall mental health.”
How it compares to a gym workout: Just like the Zumba classes offered at gyms and dance studios, the video game version lets you work at your own intensity, picking low, medium, or high. Rush is also a great place to start if you’re too shy to shake it in public. “The tutorial lets players learn at their own pace to build confidence so they can feel comfortable bringing those moves into a class environment,” says Grant. Once you’re ready to go public, use Rush’s class locator tool to find an instructor in your city. Bonus: The game also comes with a 7-day pass to 24 Hour Fitness so you can try a live class for free.
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The basics: This something-for-everyone exergame packs 90 hours of cardio, strength training, and mind-body programming onto a single disc. Toning workouts can be tailored to target specific muscle groups—abs, arms, legs, glutes, back, and so on—and are based on your fitness level, goals, and the amount of time you have to dedicate to a sweat session. You can exercise without equipment or use free weights to make standing and floor moves more challenging. Points are awarded for completing sets and reps and using proper form with each move. Log on to the virtual Your Shape Center to track your progress, challenge friends, and see where you rank against players from across the globe.
Print this motivational poster as a reminder that the time you log getting fit at home will pay off in the form of a stronger, healthier body
The body benefits: Is your back rounding during plank? Are your arms sagging when you move into Warrior I? Your virtual personal trainer will let you know—and tell you how to correct your form—in order to maximize the benefits of each move. If you’ve been working out solo, using Your Shape could be an eye-opening experience—and one you feel the next day.
How it compares to a gym workout: The game’s variety mirrors the mix of weight training, cardio, group fitness, and personal training opportunities available at most fitness centers. It’s ideal for the exerciser who is looking to tone and strengthen versus bulk up. The game is also a great way to battle boredom. The Run the World feature, for example, lets you jog the streets of New York, Paris, or London.
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The basics: An update to the original Kinect Sports, which includes soccer, beach volleyball, bowling, table tennis, track and field, and boxing, the sequel delivers six more team-based and individual sports: football, golf, darts, baseball, tennis, and skiing. (Video: Cross-Training with Skier Lindsey Vonn) Users can call out plays during a football game or crouch down to get a detailed read of the green in golf. It’s an embarrassment-free way to try a new sport, as difficulty levels range from rookie to champion for quick play sessions and full-length games.
The body benefits: The mix of cardio, strength training, and agility drills delivers a total body workout. An in-game calorie counter tracks what you burn during each game or activity and how many total calories you’ve burned playing the game to date, helping you track your progress and amp up your intensity each time you play.
How it compares to real-life competition: There’s no actual equipment used in this game. However, similar force is needed to swing a virtual golf club or tennis racket, kick a soccer ball, or throw a football. With one- and two-player gameplay available for most sports—for example, in football, one player can control the quarterback and another the receiver—players can use Xbox Live’s Challenge Play feature to challenge friends to present or future competitions.
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The basics: This sequel to Dance Central includes 40 new songs from artists such as Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Rihanna. To play, simply say “Xbox, dance” and use your voice to select the song, mode, and difficulty you prefer. Dance by yourself, perform with a friend, or choose a dance crew to go head-to-head in a dance battle against a friend.
Tracks from the original Dance Central disc can be imported into Dance Central 2 and players may also purchase additional songs from an in-game music store. To date, there are more than 100 tracks compatible with the game.
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The body benefits: A 160-pound person can torch about 300 to 400 calories per hour by shaking their groove thing. Dance Central 2 gives each player detailed limb-by-limb feedback on their dances to help them master their moves and get the most out of the workout. The more accurately players perform routines, the more points they earn.
How it compares to a gym workout: In studio or fitness center dance classes, an instructor may expect students to learn the moves simply by attending class regularly. But Dance Central 2’s Break It Down mode allows you to delve deeper into practicing technique by slowly reviewing the moves that make up a routine.
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