From time to time, someone devises a videogame that promises to get you in shape. They almost always fail. This happens for a number of reasons:
- If it’s a game based entirely around exercise, the moves tend to be too entry-level to do any good. This is the problem with WiiFit.
- If it’s a game based on cardio kit – the Tour De France simulators you see in your gym, for instance – the graphics and gameplay won’t be nearly as high-end as what you’ll see in ‘proper’, modern, triple-A games, so everything’s tinged with the smell of ‘budget’ and the game probably won’t be much good.
- If someone devises an accessory designed to link to existing games – the most common is an exercise bike that you have to pedal to go faster in driving sims – all it does is actively make the game less fun to play.
The solution? Simple. Keep playing the videogames you already like playing. Just tweak the experience so that it gets you fitter. How? Here’s how.
Beginner difficulty: Sit on the floor
Yes, it’s as simple as that. I’ve stolen this from Dan John, who likes to tell people that they can watch as much TV as they like – but only if they’re on the floor. The secret? It’s virtually impossible for a grown adult human to find one comfortable spot on the floor – as opposed to, say, burrowing into a cocoon on the couch – and so doing this means you’ll roll around, move your hips, and generally make up for some of the time you already spend sitting at your desk.
Normal difficulty: Play standing up
Why do you have to sit down anyway? When you sit, your metabolism slows, connective tissues tighten, muscles shut off and circulation’s constricted. Standing burns roughly 1.36 calories a minute more than sitting. And according to the nice people at Precision Nutrition: “Uninterrupted sedentary time is strongly associated with cardio-metabolic and inflammatory risk biomarkers” — regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.” To combat this, more and more people are turning to standing desks – but if that isn’t an option, whether because of office politics or workplace derision, stand up while you play games. Not the likes of The Last Of Us, obviously – you probably want to concentrate on that – but if you’re logging in for, say, a three-hour stint of CoD online, why not stand? There’s even evidence that standing improves cognitive function, so you might finally get a big enough killstreak to use the tactical nuke.
Advanced difficulty: Play for press-ups
I’ve got this one from Gym Jones’ Rob MacDonald, who once told me that he and his son do 10 pressups every time they die while playing God Of War. Oh, and did I mention that they play on the ‘Titan’ difficulty setting? In case you aren’t familiar with God Of War, please let me assure you – that is a fuckload of pressups. What I suggest for you, dear reader, is that you set a press-up penalty for death depending on how many times you’re likely to die. In solo GTA V, where deaths are few and far between but loading pauses are long, you’ve probably got time for a max set every time you get Wasted. In two-player Street Fighter Ultra, it’s simple: the loser does 10 (winner’s choice of style, natch). If you’re already hunched over from hours of sitting at a desk, get a band and do pull-aparts instead. Don’t just sit there watching the screen.
Mega difficulty: Play in a squat
Kelly Starrett, creator of Mobility WOD, suggests that you should try to ‘accumulate’ 10 minutes of squat time a day – details here. The problem? Sitting in a squat is tedious and – in the early going – painful. The solution: get your ten minutes while you play Resogun or Bulletstorm, and thank me when you feel spritelier and look awesome. You’re welcome.
HOMEWORK: Do one of these – or all of these – this week. Don’t play games? Do them while watching TV. Don’t watch TV? Well, aren’t you just the best – do them while reading instead. Don’t read books? GET OFF MY WEBSITE. And live hard!