No one can deny the benefits of getting a little cardio. It helps us build strength, supports our hearts, and boosts our moods. However, it’s no secret that a lot of people hate cardiovascular exercise. It’s sweaty, grueling, and exhausting work, or at least that’s what I used to think.
Creating an exercise routine with video games at the heart of it didn’t happen overnight. It started after some fitness trial and error when I was in college. Since then, my cardio sessions have evolved alongside Nintendo’s moves from the Wii to the Wii U to the Switch. While the consoles have changed and new games have entered the mix, my love of gamified exercise through Nintendo has remained the same.
“Maybe Cardio Just Isn’t For Me”
Like many college students, cardio wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities, and quite frankly, I had tried and hated common heart-pumping activities like jogging and biking. As my bike and running shoes collected dust, I assumed cardio just wasn’t for me. However, I knew I needed to do something because I was starting to feel more sluggish over time. That’s when I decided to step outside of the box to look at other active options.
I remembered loving evening and weekend dance classes in elementary school, so I thought it might make sense to put on my dancing shoes as an adult. With a little help from Google, I found a local dance studio and decided to take the plunge by signing up for a class there.
It turns out I still loved everything from ballet to hip-hop dance, but there soon was a problem. Not with the activity, but with my finances. It likely comes as no surprise that a college kid’s budget wasn’t exactly compatible with taking regular in-person dance classes. At that point, I did what anyone facing this situation in the mid-to-late 2000s would do: I bought some cheap dance and workout DVDs.
These now-relics got me moving again and gave my wallet a breather, but they presented a new problem. The DVDs lacked the feedback of an in-person class. As someone who likes to compete with myself, I had no sense of how I was progressing, so I got bored pretty quickly. This was just a speed bump though. Thankfully, it was 2009, which meant the first Just Dance game had just come out for the Nintendo Wii.
“Okay, Let’s Try This Just Dance Game”
The good news was I already had the Wii, thanks to my lifelong love for all things in the Super Mario universe. While the game wasn’t free, I figured I had nothing to lose except a couple of bucks. With that mindset, I picked up a copy of Just Dance and started playing.
There was no denying that the game’s motion detection wasn’t great, but aside from that, the game was just what I had been looking for. It offered fun songs (hello, Cotton Eye Joe and Kids in America) and different dance routines that provided just enough feedback to keep me interested while also helping me break a sweat.
The first version of Just Dance did more than just get and keep me moving. It also opened my eyes to other fitness-style games that used the Nintendo Wii’s early motion detection feature. Over time, my collection of Wii games and fitness routine grew to include titles like EA Sports Active, Fitness Boxing, and of course, every new variation of Just Dance that came out. I was feeling stronger and more energized than ever before and still wasn’t bored. It was a health and fitness miracle!
“I’m Never Turning Back”
As Wii turned to Wii U, I continued moving with help from my old favorites, thanks to backward compatibility, while adding in new games like Zumba Fitness: World Party. Yes, the motion detection still wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t matter. I was having fun while moving and sweating.
When the Nintendo Switch came on the scene to replace the Wii U, I upgraded my console again. While the console changed, my devotion to getting cardio with help from Nintendo’s dance and gamified fitness options didn’t. Today, I’m regularly moving with help from Ring Fit Adventure and Zumba: Burn It Up!
And, as you might have guessed, Just Dance is still a regular part of my cardio fitness routine. Yes, I know the motion detection feature still leaves something to be desired. Maybe they’ll perfect it one day, but until then I play using the “honor system.” This means I try my best to mimic and master the moves even though I know I could probably trigger at least a “Good” or a “Super” without that much effort.
It might seem unconventional to tell people part of my exercise routine has involved a video game system for the last 14 years. However, despite what fitness gate-keepers might say, there’s no right or wrong way to move (as long as you aren’t hurting yourself, of course). Fitness can and should be fun. Otherwise, you won’t stick with it. I know I’ve found what works for me, so I plan to keep Nintendo as my workout buddy for life.
The latest iteration of the Nintendo Switch has an OLED screen that has deeper blacks for a better-looking portable experience, and 64GB of internal memory (up for 32GB on the previous models).