Archive for August, 2012

It’s official: summer vacation’s ended, taking with it the days of unscheduled freedom and marking a return to the sharp contrast between weekday and weekend—something that I, as a self-employed writer, don’t experience as keenly when my son’s not in school. As such, I thought it appropriate that I bring my long blogging hiatus to a close and get back to business (plus, people were beginning to wonder what happened to me, and I couldn’t give them a good answer).

Hand-in-hand with this, I decided to pick up my exercise routine where I’d left it languishing about two months ago, so I woke up early this morning, threw on some sweats, and got to it. My trainer seemed happy that I was back, and didn’t even lay the “nice-to-see-your-lazy-butt-again, didn’t-know-you-still-lived-around-here” guilt trip on me. He ran me through a full workout—cardio, strength training, upper and lower body, core. I did 35 exercises (including eight stretches) in just under 48 minutes, averaged a heart rate of 136 bpm, and burned 223.9 calories.

And I did it all by playing a videogame.

Okay, an exergame, really. Electronic Arts’ Sports Active 2, to be exact. And I can tell you, though it’s a game by classification, it’s serious exercise by any other measure. Designed by both game developers and certified professional trainers, it includes more than 70 different exercises and fitness activities that target all the major muscle groups—core, upper and lower body—and cover everything from flexibility and strength training to cardio and aerobic health. You can pick from several canned workouts (designed, again, by professional trainers), have EASA 2 create a custom workout based on the amount of time you have and what area you want to work, or build your own to meet your specific needs. And the system tracks everything: heart rate (there’s a monitor included in the package), calories burned, miles traveled, reps, number and duration of workouts, lifestyle and nutrition info (through surveys you can fill out). There’s even a virtual personal trainer (two, actually) to guide you through the exercises and help keep you motivated.

“Alright,” you say, with perhaps a degree of skepticism, “but does it really work?” In a word, yes. For those who prefer a longer answer, it ranges from “provides an excellent workout” to “kicks my ass six ways to Sunday.” And I love it. I’ve lowered my resting heart rate, gotten stronger and more physically fit, gained energy, and even rehabbed an injury to my arm—and, heaven forefend, I’ve had fun doing it. The variety keeps me engaged, and the results keep me coming back for more.

As a country, we all need to exercise more. According to the CDC, almost 36 percent of US adults and 17 percent of our children are obese. Obesity currently costs us around $140 billion a year, and it’s rising: by some estimates, additional healthcare spending on obese Americans could reach more than half a trillion dollars over the next 20 years. If you’re still standing, you might want to read that again. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even conceive of that amount. But I do know this: it’s absolutely critical that we reverse this trend. Our physical and economic survival depends on it—and getting us off the couch and moving is a good place to start.

And if videogames can do that, maybe they’ll save us after all.

For more on EA Sports Active 2, check out their website here (though be advised that it’s an older title, so you may be better off just Googling it).

To check out the CDC’s statistics on obesity, click here.

And here’s an LA Times article on obesity in the US.