High Tech Fitness

As 2008 morphed into 2009, many of us surely made the most popular of the usual New Year’s resolutions: Lose weight, or at least get more fit. Of course, diet and/or eating healthier would help, but that’s the subject of another article.

Now, about the quest for fitness — there are some new higher-tech, interesting equipment and ways to help you get there.

One way is actually fun! The Wii system from Nintendo (I call it the Wheeee system) has myriad packages and add-on “systems” that allow the entire family to play and enjoy the games they enjoy the most. The Sports Package is one of the most popular of the programs and usually the first one furnished or chosen for an individual or family. So, you start with bowling, tennis, golf, baseball or boxing.

You really must experience this for yourself, but I’ll try to explain why it’s so much fun to work up a sweat with the basic programs.

First, each player/participant creates her own Mii (mini-you) look, selecting a face, hair (style and color), eyes/eyebrows, body type and so on. People usually try to make the Mii to match their own looks. Or you can create someone entirely different. Then you name the player, again using your real name or an alias. From then on, click on your icon/player, and the system will remember you.

Next, using a remote, which can be shared and handed from player to player as each turn comes up in certain sports like bowling, you cue up the bowling program, select the players, and the game begins. You hold the remote in your hand and move just as you would when bowling, using steps and swinging your arm backward and forward, and then release. You see your character using the exact movements, and the trajectory of the ball goes where it would go — toward the pins (or the gutter), traveling down the lane, veering to the right or left or straight down the middle, knocking pins down as you would at the bowling alley.

It’s up to you to make strikes, spares, pick-up splits and to put the right “body English” on your shots. After completing the strike or picking up the remaining pins — or not — you can then pass the remote to the next player for his or her turn. The score is kept and shown as you go by the program. You might also hear or see a “Good shot!” or some activity by a player when you get a strike or pick up a difficult split.

The tennis game requires the use of two remotes if you’re playing against another player. Again, you serve as you would normally, and the ball travels fast or dribbles over the net or right into the net — however you’ve served it. You’ll return shots, make lobs, cross-court shots that are too long or too short or out of court — even miss the ball entirely if you swing too early or too late. You can play doubles with only two players, each of you making the shots for both double partners. You can also play alone, against the Wii unit.

Although I haven’t played golf with Wii, I have it on good authority that it is quite accurate and helpful and fun.

And now, Wii Fit™!

This is a fitness program you can add onto your Wii system through the use of a balance board. It is based on the premise that your center of balance, described by Wii manufacturers as that point between your left and right sides when standing upright, has a great deal to do with your overall health. Their research shows that if your center of balance is off or uneven, your body will try to compensate, causing strain, including misalignment of your whole body. This program allows you to work out in some of the more traditional ways, using the remote(s) you already have.

The Wii Fit offers four training modes: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. Over 40 exercises and activities are included under these four categories. For example, under strength training, you’ll find push-ups, leg extensions, leg “planks,” torso exercises and lunges. Under aerobics, there are jogging, hula hoops and step aerobics. In the balance games you can whiz down the mountains running on slalom courses through gates, walk a tightrope and high jump from giant ski jumps.

Each of the four categories also includes “mystery” exercises, new challenges you are able to “unlock” only after reaching a progression of goals. You are told by the “trainer” while leading you through these exercises and games how and what you need to do to correct your balance, posture, leg and arm positions and more.

Here again, you set up each family member or friend with a profile, daily body test, BMI (a measurement of your body fat, used by health organizations based on your height and weight), your body control and your Wii Fit age. After you set up your “mini you,” you will be “recognized” every time you step on the balance board. You can, of course, even establish a PIN to keep your personal information private.

Verbal instructions are clear, concise and very understandable for all ages. You can find Wii systems and the accessories and additional games — boxing, kickboxing, soccer, Tiger Woods golf, snowboarding with U.S. Olympic champion Shawn White, and you can see yourself playing guitar in a rock band.

By the way, this is not an advertisement for the Wii system. I’ve used it for illustration because I’ve had a little experience with it. There is at least one other system of this type, possibly more, on the market. They are available at most discount stores, department stores and establishments selling electronics.

More cool, techy stuff:

R U a Biker Babe? If so, there are stationary bikes with TV screens attached. You can choose from settings that allow you to race with others on similar bikes or against your own set of personal results/records. Or you can bike on scenic paths through various terrains or through foreign lands. I read about one ride that simulates biking through China and racing against a dragon.You do actually “steer” the bikes, so you need to pay attention to where you’re going on these rides. Otherwise, you could end up in a ditch or worse.

Want to build your upper arm strength? Go for a Gyroball! This consists of a device you hold in your hands while the ball spins through using its own internal power (no string or batteries). This produces torque, which in turn exerts force on your forearms.

JumpSnap. Intriguing name, isn’t it? Well, the name suits the product perfectly here. This is a jump rope without the rope. Consists of two handles, a calorie counter, a timer and six 2.5-ounce weights and an instructional DVD. As you swing the handles, you hear a snapping sound, which provides a rhythm to follow. You add the weights to the handles to make the workout more intense. And you don’t trip on a rope. Or, as advertised, “perfect for the coordinationally challenged.”

The Entertainer. Here is how this great-sounding apparatus is described: “Hook up the heart rate monitor to your body and then “plug yourself into’ your treadmill, bike or rowing machine.” If you aren’t working hard enough to keep your heart rate up where it’s supposed to be, this device lowers the volume of the TV show you’re watching, and if you stop, the set switches off.

Dancing queen? Dancing your way to fitness really works, as you’ve seen on TV’s Dancing with the Stars. Who hasn’t commented on the stars who start off just a little plump and end up with a real bikini-babe body? In addition to burning calories and toning muscles, you improve your mind by learning and remembering steps, patterns and music. It’s fun, and it helps your balance and your coordination. You can try as many styles as you want — salsa, disco, swing, belly- and square-dancing, tap, ballet or line dancing. For instructional videos, just check your DVD aisles to rent or own or your local dance and fitness studios, colleges and continuing education classes.

WALKVEST®. This specially designed vest allows you to add weight and resistance to your workout. It comes with the vest and eight half-pound weights to insert. The vest is advertised as a safe way to lose weight and strengthen your abs while building your bone density and protecting your lower back.

A sports bra or tank top that monitors your heart rate? No kidding, they’re made by Numetex and have special sensing fibers that are knit directly into the spandex-type fabric. These heart-smart tops sense your pulse and transmit it wirelessly through a snap-in transmitter (purchased separately) to (a) a heart rate-monitoring watch or (b) heart rate monitor-enabled fitness machine like a treadmill, bike and so on. No more cumbersome and uncomfortable chest straps with this bra.

So jump up and get on board … have a high-tech and fun time getting fit in ’09.

Author: Anne Moore

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