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Video Games Can Help Your Fitness

10/05/2021 - Author: Jo Robertson


Like many people, the winter lockdown over the long dark months of January and February had a detrimental effect on my activity levels. I realised that I needed to fully embrace the lockdown walking thing. So I took to trudging around the freezing neighbourhood, feeling more and more like a cliche with each person I passed, also doing the same thing.

Around this time my children’s school sent out a link to the NHS Active 10 app in an attempt to encourage kids outside during the constant zoom schooling. It’s designed to get you walking briskly for at least 10 minutes a day and has reward badges when you reach certain milestones. It was a great motivator for me but I quickly hit the upper limit of rewards and then my motivation dried up.

Extending these kinds of achievements in motivating ways is something video games do really well. Like Jump Rope challenge where you use your Switch controller to mimic skipping. The game tracks your progress and gives you daily challenges. Or Ring Fit Adventure where you do aerobic exercises using a handheld ring and leg strap to progress through a fantasy adventure. If you have a VR headset, there are games which use this immersive world to get you working out like Fruit Ninja

Taking games outside is no new thing. Remember the Pokemon Go phenomenon of a few years ago? Throngs of teenagers were outside blinking in the sunlight to find little creatures in random locations via their smartphones. Well, there are loads of games which follow this theme, which can immerse you in an alternative reality while you walk or run. One of our Twitter followers suggested the smartphone game Ingress Prime, which is part of the Pokemon Go series but has a superhero theme.

As Keith Stuart (author of A Boy Made of Blocks and Days of Wonder) explains in Taming Gaming book, 'When Pokemon Go was launched I heard from several parents of autistic children who were delighted that this game had encouraged their sons and daughters to go out to the park and meet other kids - the game gave them an excuse, a distraction and a motivation to be outdoors.'

I really like the look of the game The Walk. As you walk each day in the real world (any route you like) you can navigate the in-game map and discover side-missions. In this way you progress the story, save the world and have a compelling reason for going for regular walks. The mystery unfolds as you slowly work out who set off a bomb in Inverness. The adventure takes you hundreds of walking miles through 65 episodes and 800 minutes of audio.

If running is your thing, Run an Empire is a combination of real-world running and a strategy game where you battle other players for land and resources. Once set up you run around your neighbourhood, which in the game is divided into small hexagons. As you encircle areas in the real world they become yours on that map and provide you with an income in the game.

So, if you formed new routines and habits of meeting others for local lockdown walks, these games are a great way to progress those walks in new ways.

We asked for suggestions of your favourite active games on Twitter, here's what we’ve discovered about using video games to keep fit. Kinect Sports and Wii Music, which uses nunchuck controllers and even the balance board to mimic playing the drums. A great way to get your feet tapping.

If you want more ideas why not check out our list Get Fit Playing Great Games

You can also search the database using the filters: Get Fit Playing Great Games and for example, limit it to games that only take an hour to play.
Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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