While 2020 upended a lot of norms, I do not expect to see a major decline in the number of people who resolved to get in better shape as the calendar rolled over to a new year. What might be different, however, is an increase in people looking for ways to work out alone and away from a gym.
As an introverted geek, I have long been a proponent of getting active through gamification. A variety of video games and apps exist to help you get off the couch and get your body moving, and even the most expensive options can be more affordable than filling your house with gym equipment.
If you’re looking to shake things up as you shape yourself up, here are some video games you might want to take a look at.
Ring Fit Adventure
Nintendo made home exercise waves years ago with Wii Fit, but if you ask me, it’s outdone itself this time with Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch. The main gameplay answers the age-old question, “What if, in order to attack enemies in a video game, you had to do a lot of squats?”
At first glance, the game just looks weird. The required “Ring-Con” accessory is just, well … a ring. It’s a flexible controller shaped like a steering wheel that you can tilt, squeeze and pull. One of your two Switch controllers goes into the ring while the other attaches to your leg with a Velcro strap, and the getup doesn’t exactly look like typical gym attire.
But the Ring Fit workout is no joke. Through a series of fun mini-games and a sprawling role-playing adventure, you will work up one heck of a sweat by pushing, pulling and running in place. Speaking personally, it’s some of the most fun I have ever had while working out.
One of virtual reality’s shiniest gems, Beat Saber is an addictive rhythm game that lets you burn calories, enjoy great music and feel like a Jedi all at once.
Similar to games like Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution, the point of Beat Saber is to hit specific notes in time with a beat. What makes this game unique, however, is that you are holding two (virtual) lightsaber-like blades with which you need to slash notes up, down, left or right. That’s a good enough workout for the arms, but your legs will get in on the action, too, as you duck and dodge your way past obstacles as songs play.
Beat Saber’s base game comes with a bunch of mostly original, mostly electronic music that you probably won’t recognize (though it’s fun to play through), but you can purchase additional song packs with hits from the likes of BTS, Imagine Dragons and Green Day.
Given that it requires a VR headset, this game has a higher barrier of entry than most others on this list, but I would go as far as to call it a must-have if you happened to get your hands on an Oculus Quest 2 over the holiday season.
Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise
Both boxing and dancing can be great ways to stay in shape, so Nintendo combined the two in Fitness Boxing and the new Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise. Taking a Nintendo Switch controller in each hand, you will jab, weave and uppercut various boxing-related icons in time with music.
It’s a bit simplistic and not as innovative or engaging as Ring Fit Adventure, but it serves its purpose and is easy to pick up and play for quick sessions.
One of the most disappointing things about Fitness Boxing 2, however, is the music. While the box boasts hit songs from artists like Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande, what you actually get are instrumental-only tunes that sound like they could have been the basis for an off-brand Kidz Bop album. It’s not a deal breaker, as the songs can still get your body moving, but don’t expect album-quality sound.
Just Dance 2021
If your entire workout goal is to get moving with some popular music, the Just Dance series has been serving that purpose admirably for years. Featuring a wide array of current songs from artists such as Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Harry Styles, Just Dance is all about, y’know, making you dance.
If you’re playing on the Nintendo Switch, you can use the system’s included motion controllers, but you also have the option of connecting with your phone via the Just Dance mobile app, so just about anyone can hop in and play — for better or worse. The downside to this control method is that the tracking of your movements is less than perfect (and limited to just one arm, rather than your entire body), so Just Dance can often feel less like a game and more like an encouraging dance workout video.
Still, this hasn’t dissuaded fans. For diehards, there is also the option of a “Just Dance Unlimited” subscription, which grants access to hundreds of songs, with more added every month. You can even buy an Unlimited subscription for just a single day if you only want to pay for it when you’re hosting a dance party at your house.
This one will actually force you to leave your house, but it doesn’t require interacting with people. Zombies, Run! is an old favorite for joggers who want to spice up their runs with the threat of a zombie apocalypse. Using this smartphone app and a pair of headphones, you’ll be motivated to pick up your pace as the voice in your ear urges you to run faster to escape the undead horde at your heels. It’s a clever concept that has stood the test of time.
If you’re not interested in running, dancing or strength training, it’s probably still a good idea to get outside. And while you’re out there, why not use your phone to capture some pocket monsters, or get in your steps to hatch some eggs?
While the explosion of mainstream interest in Pokemon Go has mostly passed, the game remains extremely popular and continues to receive regular updates. Whether you’re new to your Pokemon journey or have been away for a while, Pokemon Go is a pretty good albeit casual way to encourage yourself to take a walk.