Video games can help create an effective and fun workout

D o the words “fitness” and “video game” really go together?

According to the recent craze in exercise video games, the answer is an indisputable ‘yes.’

Over the years, improved motion sensor technology has allowed the video game world to transform our lazy living rooms into gyms and dance floors.

The idea of integrating exercise with video games isn’t  particularly new. In 1988, Nintendo released the Power Pad, a mat with foot-sized buttons designed for running and jumping.

Now, instead of bulky mats or unresponsive dance pads, we have more precise and convenient tools like the Wii Balance Board and the Xbox Kinect.

But nobody wants to fork over a week’s paycheck for a video game without seeing results. And what if you only have an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3? What’s the best video game for your specific console? More importantly, when choosing a console, which one gives you the most freedom to build a workout and really move around?

These are the top fitness video games on the market for each of the three major game consoles:

Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo Wii)

If you own a Wii, Wii Fit Plus is by far one of the best investments you can make. Though it costs almost $100 for the actual game and the balance board, the results you see are worth the investment.

The video game uses the Wii Balance Board to measure your weight and body mass index. Players then stand on the board and select from a variety of workouts to perform, such as yoga and aerobics.

The game’s best feature is its flexibility in building routines. Wii Fit Plus allows you to take free reign of your workout regimen by letting you combine mini-games and exercises, depending on the areas of your body you want to focus on most.

Like other Nintendo titles, the mini-games are creative and exciting. One forces you to flap your wings to fly whereas another makes you hula-hoop.

The game is a considerable improvement from the original Wii Fit, with a handful of new mini-games and balance exercises that help create a fun and effective workout.

Your Shape Fitness Evolved (Xbox 360)

Balance board unappealing? Try the Xbox’s Your Shape Fitness Evolved.

The game utilizes the Xbox’s Kinect sensor, so your body alone is the controller. The sensor uses player projection technology to pinpoint millions of dots along your body, which allows you to directly interact with the elements on the screen.

Yes, that’s right, no bulky balance board, no dance pad and no controller. You get to move, dance, kick and punch your way through levels and to better health.

Like Wii Fit Plus, Your Shape Fitness Evolved comes with dozens of fun, interactive workouts, such as martial arts, dancing or tai chi. Unlike Wii Fit Plus, however, the Xbox 360 allows you to download new exercise routines to keep you from falling into a rut.

If you’re a proponent of working out with friends, Your Shape Fitness Evolved also allows for multiplayer functions via Xbox LIVE.

Zumba Fitness (PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360)

For those who don’t own a Wii or Xbox 360, PlayStation 3’s version of Zumba Fitness is one of the best options on the video game exercise market.

Capitalizing on the nation’s new craze with the Latin-inspired dance system called Zumba, Zumba Fitness challenges you to move and stay in sync with the beat.

Although the game doesn’t boast a wide variety of workouts as Wii Fit Plus or Your Shape Fitness Evolved, it contains a satisfying number of interesting dance styles, from hip-hop to flamenco.

Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3 lacks the more sophisticated technology of the Wii or Xbox 360.

Playing the game requires wearing a somewhat frustrating motion sensor belt around your waist. The belt is relatively accurate but less convenient than the Xbox 360’s Kinect.

Still, priced at $40, the game is a decent alternative to the more efficient Wii Fit Plus and Your Shape Fitness Evolved. In Zumba Fitness, players follow a dance instructor.

The accuracy of the players’ moves is highlighted by different colors. Like other dance-oriented games in the past, it can be frustrating trying to stay exactly in sync with the steps onscreen. But the drive for perfection is still guaranteed to make you break a sweat.

With so many choices, it doesn’t matter which consoles you have access to. There’s no excuse not to join in on this video game exercise frenzy.

Hannah Muniz is a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures and creative writing. Her column, “Fit ‘n Fab,” runs Mondays.