Friday, March 28, 2014

Blips: My Shape

Source: What the Next Generation of Health and Fitness Software Can Learn from Wii Fit
Author: Michael Thomsen
Site: Forbes

OK, I'm not back on normal posting schedule yet, but I'm recovering from surgery, so give me a break. Anyway, perhaps appropriately as I lie here considering my own bodily existence, I've also read this piece my Michael Thomsen on Wii Fit, Wii Fit U, and electronic fitness monitoring systems. I'd never really paid the original Wii Fit much mind, which is crazy considering how popular it was, but Thomsen's description of the way it pushes you to elaborate on simple instructions with subtle body movements is really profound notion. This especially in light of how most games ask very little of the human body but perform complex feats of virtual athleticism on screen, as Thomsen explains. This is before even getting into the angle of who has time for these kinds of tracking devices (hint: not the people who can't afford to shop at Whole Foods).

I have used video games as a fitness tool myself. In college I began playing Dance Dance Revolution PS2 games on a regular basis with the intention of lowering my heart rate. I played a lot, and burned through a couple sets of dance pads and a handful of DDR sequels, and achieved my fitness goal. Also, I got pretty good at DDR; not competition good, but still. However, one thing I liked about this was that I didn't have to guilt myself into playing, and the game never tried to shame or motivate me from a fitness perspective. I'm pretty sure there were "calorie burner" modes in some of those games, but I never touched them. DDR was a fun game to play with physical health side benefits, but I did adopt a regular workout regimen with the game, aided by the social context of a friend in college that would play along side me. It was a perfect confluence of factors to make me feel happy and healthy, one that I haven't experienced since.

Nowadays it seems like "games as fitness tools" is its own industry, so any electronic device that involves exercise is designed with the "workout session" in mind. DDR predates this, and to me, makes it more approachable. Who knows, maybe DDR is a poor exercise tool, maybe it's bad for your knees or bad for your eyes since you have to stare so hard at a screen. I'm probably better off just going out for a run, but running sucks (I've trained for and run a half-marathon in my post-college years) and, for me, requires the external motivation of training for a race. In the end, it's not just what the tools at your disposal are capable of, but how they make you feel about yourself and how they fit into your life. From my experience, physical fitness has everything to do with circumstance, and the factors that play into that aren't tracked in a calorie counter.

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