Unfortunately, most doctors don’t recommend that you plop yourself down on the couch for a marathon Call of Duty session, with two liters of Mountain Dew and a bag of Doritos for “game fuel.” Playing video games is many things, but it isn’t very good for your health.
At least, that’s the general perception. Nowadays, video games come in all shapes and sizes, and thanks to motion-sensing controllers like Wii Remotes and the Xbox Kinect, games can encourage us get off the couch and move around. Better yet, they can plan entire workout routines for us. Here are five recent games that will help you get in shape.
1. Xbox Fitness
- Platform: Xbox One
Xbox Fitness brings a wide variety of workouts right to your television, including cardio, Tai Chi, Zumba, Insanity, and many more. Lots of the workouts are hosted by fitness gurus like Jillian Michaels and Tony Horton, who know a thing or two about staying in shape.
And unlike workout DVDs, this game offers incentives and feedback. As the workout video plays, a sidebar on the screen shows a silhouette of your body moving in real time. Parts of your figure light up as you exercise, illustrating which muscle groups you’re using at the moment, and a score multiplier encourages you to keep pushing yourself. The game can give you feedback on your form and even keep track of your pulse just by watching “micro-fluctuations” in your skin. Sure, it’s kinda creepy, but it’s also pretty cool.
Best of all, many of the videos are free for Xbox Gold members.
2. Wii Fit U
- Platform: Wii U
The original Wii Fit was a big success for Nintendo, so the company has doubled down on the fitness game-balance board combo for its latest console. The result is a fun game that provides a healthy dose of exercise along with a unique brand of charm only Nintendo can provide.
The chief selling point for Wii Fit U is that it has you play dozens of movement-based mini-games instead of mimicking boring old exercises. You’re getting a good workout, but you’re also playing a game, which makes it fun.
As a bonus, Wii Fit U can even track your fitness when you’re not playing, thanks to the Fit Meter accessory you can clip onto your clothing as you go about your day. That data syncs with the game, giving Wii Fit U a more thorough idea of your overall physical activity.
3. Just Dance 2015
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii
Although it’s not a standard fitness game, Just Dance 2015 certainly gets you off the couch and elevates your heart rate. As you might expect, the basic gameplay has you perform the dance moves the game displays onscreen to the rhythm of pop songs like Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
You can certainly incorporate Just Dance into your workout routine, but it’s also a great game to play with friends or family members. Before you know it, everyone’s having a good time and staying active. Just make sure to clear the dance floor of any breakables, because it’s easy to forget where you are once the beat starts.
4. Shape Up
- Platform: Xbox One
Many fitness videos are overly serious, with little room for, well, fun. That’s where Shape Up comes in. While it puts you through a nice variety of standard exercise routines, it also cuts through the potential tedium by offering 90-second challenges in the form of goofy mini-games.
Once you complete your leg lifts, for instance, you might have to spend some time punching ice cubes that fly at you, or bench pressing an elephant onscreen. Those challenges, along with the colorful graphics, help Shape Up stand out from the crowd.
5. Dance Central Spotlight
- Platform: Xbox One
Like Just Dance 2015, Dance Central Spotlight makes you sweat while boogying down to a new array of tunes. If your goal is just to get your blood pumping, this game will do it. This Xbox One-exclusive installment includes hits from the likes of Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, and Lorde, as well as plenty of extra downloadable tunes and dance routines.
On top of the standard dance modes available in the game, Spotlight includes a workout mode that lets you set up your own playlist and dance routines, and shows you how many calories you’ve burned. If you’re a fan of pop music and you want to get fit, look no further.
Overall, if you’re interested in using a video game platform as an exercise tool, your best bet is to buy an Xbox One with Kinect. The PlayStation 4 and Wii U do offer games that get you on your feet and moving, but the Xbox One with Kinect has the best variety out there. If you adamantly refuse to go this route, see our guide to making your regular gaming habits at least slightly healthier.