Jon Bentley explores how gaming can boost our fitness

03 May 2016


Jon Bentley

I’m not one for strenuous exercise. The nearest I get to a routine is climbing the modest hill behind our house as frequently as possible, usually while listening to the radio on my phone. I don’t go anywhere near gymnasia and fitness equipment if I can help it, so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to a week with a fitness game on an Xbox.


Actually, Shape Up, the game I tried, wasn’t too intrusive or demanding. Jolly instructors on screen encouraged me to jump about in a variety of engaging artificial environments, while the Kinect camera put me, literally, in the picture on my telly. I could therefore interact with things on screen like, for example, the barrage of melons that I had to try and squash by moving my feet up and down as quickly as possible.


If you’re someone who has no other available opportunities for exertion, Shape Up could be a very good thing. Though I did have my doubts as to the comprehensiveness of the exercises. They mainly seemed to involve waggling around the parts of your body whose movement could be easily picked up by the Kinect.


My fellow tech testers Joanna and Daniela got on rather well with their exercise gadgets. Joanna’s BKool Smart Pro bike trainer offered a healthy variety of virtual bike riding simulations and the social opportunity to compete with others. Daniela rated her TechnoGym MYRUN treadmill very highly for a domestic model, comparing it favourably in quality and sophistication with models she’d used in a gym. She also found the associated app encouraged her to try harder next time she used the device.


So, overall it was thumbs up for home tech as a way of getting you fitter. It adds an extra dimension to your exercise, provides added motivation and variety and a means of measuring how well you’re doing.


This is a great result but I’d like to think that tech in the next few years will get better at keeping us fit in new ways, many of them to do with our wider health, rather than just concentrating upon physical exercise. In the future devices might, for example, measure our calorie intake as we eat, and suggest when and what we should eat to keep us in top condition. Or perhaps there’ll be miniature robots that constantly circulate round the body to maintain our arteries, regulate our levels of cholesterol, and deliver prescription drugs when and where they’re needed without us even feeling a medical symptom.  Maybe there’ll even be rigs that we can use to zap tumors and a greater variety of 3D printed body parts that can replace any bits that get worn out, whether from age or over-exercise.


That’s all a little way off but one thing’s certain, in the future health and fitness will play an increasing role in the development of gadgetry.