Video games can help fitness beginners enjoy physical activity—Here are the ones to try

Video games aren't as effective as conventional physical activity, but they're more fun (according to research)

Ring Fit Adventure, an activity video game
(Image credit: Nintendo)

When you think of video games, chances are you think of somebody slumped on the sofa for hours at a time. But video games can be helpful in getting people engaged and active, thanks to a genre called "exergaming". 

Gradually, video games are earning their place as must-have fitness gadgets alongside the best workout equipment for home. Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure has you do yoga and strength moves with the motion controller. The character copies your motions on-screen and uses it to "attack" monsters and complete challenges. The downloadable VR game Beat Saber is also very popular, which has you swing a pair of motion controllers to hit "notes" in a song. 

Researchers from the University of Georgia looked at the "exergaming" phenomenon and analyzed how effective it was to get people moving. The study followed 55 people whose daily physical activity was below the recommended 150 minutes per week, and randomly assigned them to either exergame or participate in traditional aerobics classes for six weeks. 

The researchers found that physical exertion levels were higher in traditional aerobics classes. But the exergamers enjoyed themselves more, and described a sense of autonomy over their workouts afterward—and this sense of autonomy could mean the difference between skipping the gym and choosing to exercise every day.  


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sami Yli-Piipari, the co-author of the study, said: "When an individual feels autonomous, they're more likely to exercise or exergame on their own. 

"They feel ownership over what they are doing, and they're doing it for themselves, so it's more likely they will keep up the activity."

If you already own a video games console and you struggle to make exercise a habit, look into the exergaming options on your preferred platform: Xbox has Kinect, Nintendo has Ring Fit Adventure, and PlayStation has a selection of games like Beat Saber, although you need special PlayStation Move hardware.

Once you get used to exercising regularly and taking ownership of your fitness regime, you might want to transition to simple home workouts. Low-impact, low-intensity activity is easily done: we've got loads of home workouts just like this five-move, low-impact routine. The best adjustable dumbbells and best resistance bands are cheap, easily-stored pieces of fitness kit to level up your burgeoning home workout setup. 

Together with the recent news that weight training for just 30 minutes each week can help you live longer, it's a great time to get started with some home resistance training.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.