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Gaming My Way to Fitness, Part 1

by Debbie Ginsberg

I love exercise! It doesn't bore me to tears at all. I never, say, when using the treadmill, stare at the timer, wondering, "When, oh when will this workout end." During each exercise class, I am always completely coordinated. And I never, ever do anything I can to avoid exercise at all costs.

OK, not so much.

Things I've tried so far which haven't worked out too well:

Tai Chi: Suffers from the "this requires coordination" problem.

Swimming: I like swimming, but only for about 10 minutes. After that, bored now. Also wet. Also cold. Did I mention bored?

Aikido: I didn't seem to quite have the right center of gravity for some moves, like ones that required me to flip over in midair.

Treadmill: This works as long as it is set up in front of the TV and there's something good on. Naturally, we haven't set it up since we moved.

Walking outside: This is great as long as the weather is nice. Did I mention I live in Chicago?

I've been thinking that I should try some kind of video game to get in shape, but, of course, most of those involve sitting on the couch. The Eye Toy, a PlayStation2 accessory, however, uses the player as a controller. To play, you must get up and move around. Better still, one of the games available for the Eye Toy is Kinetic, a personal fitness video game. The game features a 12-week training program which steps players through a variety of exercise routines, motivated by an on-screen virtual trainer. This game sounded like fun! Well, as fun as exercise could be. But would it work?

I've been following Kinetic's personal fitness program for about 5 weeks now. My first impressions of the game are generally positive. I like the games themselves. They are fun, fairly easy to learn, and better still, distracting enough that I barely notice I'm getting exercise.

The game includes a warm up routine and a final stretch, so I don't have to worry that I'm going to hurt myself by playing. And I like how the game is slowly increasing in intensity, letting me add in additional routines at a comfortable pace.

The worst problems with this Kinetic are due to the Eye Toy itself. That darn thing is hard to adjust properly. Worse, I haven't found a way to stop the game to fix Eye Toy problems. If I try to fiddle with the Eye Toy controls, I end up quitting the day's routine and the virtual trainer yells at me. Not very fair, I think.

I also wish I could have more control over the workout schedule. While the program includes some flexibility, it doesn't mesh with my personal schedule as well as I would like.

Over the next couple of months, I'll chart my progress through the program and showcase other fitness games. Can I make it through the whole 12 weeks without becoming bored, frustrated, or completely distracted? Tune in next time for "Combat-Style DDR!"

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