Fitness Technology Goes Social

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Like a lot of people, Kenny Thompson had trouble balancing a 40-plus-hour job with a fitness regimen. The 34-year-old food-market manager, a resident of Morristown, New Jersey, used to work out regularly when he was younger, but over the past couple of years he had become more inactive. Recently that all changed, thanks to his Xbox 360 Kinect add-on and a game called Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.

An avid gamer who realized the need for a lifestyle change, Thompson entered Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved Bootcamp contest for a chance to be among the first to play the game. Since then the game has become part of a regular commitment to diet and exercise, and Thompson has lost more than 15 pounds. His favorite feature in Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is cardio kickboxing, but he can also try one of the many programs designed by experts from Men's Health and Women's Health magazines. Through Kinect's motion sensors, which track more than 50,000 points on his body, the game gives him feedback on how he's moving through the exercises.

"Boom! There's a personal trainer in my living room ready to walk me though a routine," says Thompson.

The game appeals to Thompson's competitive personality. The Xbox 360's multiplayer capabilities give him a support group of friends with whom he can compare scores and calories burned. "It's extremely motivating," says Thompson. "Working out with other people is better than working out by yourself."

Fitness technology started with tools that tracked and graphed calories burned, steps taken, and reps performed. The category gained a bit of fun when Nintendo released Wii Fit, and when mobile apps let you share your accomplishments with online compatriots. Now the latest crop of fitness technology--pumped up with gaming and social networking features--adds a deeper level of fun to the sweat and burn.

Kinect With Your Sporty Side

Kinect fitness
Take a class in cardio kickboxing using the Kinect and Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.
When Microsoft released the Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 in November 2010, developers released a slew of fitness games along with it. Unlike the Nintendo Wii and Sony's Move add-on for the PlayStation 3, the Kinect responds to body motion without the need of a controller. Kinect's motion sensor, facial recognition, and body scanning can analyze your movements to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly.

The Your Shape: Fitness Evolved game "coaches you through the whole process," says Thompson.

Another Kinect fitness title that marries entertainment with exercise is THQ's The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout, a spin-off of NBC's fitness reality TV show of the same name. (The game is also available as The Biggest Loser Challenge for Nintendo Wii.) The Biggest Loser trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels guide users through ten routines in four environments: the ranch, the gym, a yoga studio, and a boxing ring. You can incorporate a stability ball, free weights, and resistance bands into your workout, as well as record progress in a video diary. And in true Xbox 360 style, you can work out with three other players online.

Biggest Loser Game
Work out with Bob Harper (shown here) and Jillian Michaels from NBC's 'The Biggest Loser.'

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