As more and more people start to embrace the concept of home fitness games and games consoles, everybody seems to be asking “What is the best games console for fitness?” The problem is it depends on what kind of fitness training and exercise the person is doing, and what their level of competency is.
There are three main gaming consoles, and each one has its own motion detection program to enable fitness and exercise gaming.
While the Wii is intended purely as a motion detection console for all kinds of gaming, the other two consoles have adaptations that facilitate motion sensor movement. The PlayStation 3 has the PlayStation Move, while the Xbox 360 has the Xbox Kinect.
Although these three consoles have distinctive methods of operation, they share many of the same gaming titles. As such, the choice of the best home fitness gaming console can best be addressed by comparing the differences in the way the consoles detect movement, and the limitations of the best gaming titles to each one.
The first motion sensor console to hit the market was Nintendo’s Wii. The Wii features a wireless controller that acts as a movement based controller in three dimensions.
A sensor attached above or below the television screen registers movement of the Wii remote via Bluetooth, and the remote also features an accelerometer that further aids in motion detection.
While the standard Wii does facilitate exercise games, it is through the Nintendo Wii Balance Board that Nintendo really staked their claim on the home gaming fitness niche.
The Balance Board, released in conjunction with the Wii Fit title, and subsequently with Wii Fit Plus, resembles a weighing scale and acts as a measure of weight and center of balance. The Balance Board and Wii remote combine nicely and can be used with many Wii gaming titles.
With over 40 million sales, Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus are the big hitters for the Wii in the fitness genre. Combining stretching exercises through yoga with strength training and simple cardio, the Wii is the perfect introduction to home fitness training.
An added benefit of the Wii is that the Balance Board actually tracks your weight and progress, and this can be pretty satisfying.
The PlayStation 3 Move
Although considered by some to be a copy of the Wii, research into the PlayStation Move began back in 2001. The PlayStation Move works in a similar method to Nintendo’s Wii; the player has a motion controller that players operate in one hand.
The Move Controller is somewhat more developed than its Wii counterpart, with more specific orientation readings calculated and more precise movements measured. The Move, like the Wii, uses a sensor to track its position.
As well as internal sensors and accelerometers, the PS Move controller has an orb that is tracked by the Move sensor.
This orb tells the sensor the velocity and distance at any given time. Although similar to the Wii in this way, the PlayStation Move is far more accurate than the Wii, and allows for far more precise gameplay.
As a home fitness console, the PlayStation Move targets a different audience to the Wii. Without a balance board, the PS Move incorporates dual controllers into many of its fitness games.
One of the most successful and popular of these games is EA Sports Active 2. Originally a Wii game, the title works excellently on the PlayStation Move.
The similar controllers mean that the game style works just as well on the Move, while the more vigorous and energetic exercises are more suited towards a PlayStation Move owner.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation Move can only track the movement of the PlayStation controllers, so it is possible to trick the game in to thinking you are doing more than you are, but for those dedicated to a real workout, EA Sports Active 2 on the Move is a superb choice.
The Xbox 360 Kinect
While the Wii is designed to be a motion detection console, and the PlayStation 3 Move is an add-on accessory to the PS3 that mirrors this concept, the Xbox Kinect is a different type of platform altogether.
Doing away with the controller, the Xbox Kinect actually registers and tracks whole body movements. This means that the Xbox Kinect is entirely controller free – hence the tag line “You are the controller”.
While the PS3 Move and the Wii are limited in their fitness games to actions that can be tracked using controllers and boards, the Kinect has the power to track and assess entire body movements, allowing for far more extensive workouts.
The best example of a fitness game for the Xbox Kinect is probably Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. Unlike titles like Wii Fit Plus, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 provides a huge scope for high intensity workouts.
The software is capable of registering the movements of the entire body and not just the motion detectable controllers. This means that it is not possible to be rewarded in the game when you are not committing to the challenge at hand, as the sensor will pick up on any elements of the exercise not completed.
With the Wii and the PS3 Move, the exercise may involve both arm and leg movements, but the system may only be able to recognize one or the other.
Which Games Console Should I Buy?
There are many things to consider before deciding on a games console for fitness games.
First of all, buyers should consider whether they would like to use their console for anything other than fitness games. If so, then the buyer’s preferred game style and game titles should be a factor. However, solely from a fitness perspective, the choice is slightly easier.
The Wii is the most gentle of the games consoles. Those looking for high intensity workouts and a training schedule that will push them to the very edge should go for one of the other two.
For an introduction to fitness, gentle rehabilitation or placid exercising with a weight loss goal, then the Wii is the console to have.
For the more serious exerciser, the Kinect is the console to have. The Kinect will keep users honest, and will point out where users are going wrong in their training.
If your posture is incorrect, or you are not fully executing a maneuver, the Kinect will correct you until you get it right. This is perfect for serious athletes and those looking for a full body workout.
Then there is the unfortunate third group of people that want a Kinect for the higher intensity workouts but simply don’t have the room to accommodate it. Those users will have to make do with the PlayStation Move.
Although not as good as the Kinect, the PlayStation Move is a fine machine, and buyers can be consoled that they are probably getting the most popular outright gaming console. For me, I would go with the Xbox 360 Kinect.
Image courtesy: Michael Sheehan