There's nothing like sweating it out in the privacy of your own home--no one around to mock you, correct your form or laugh.
So, pull down the shades, crank up the Xbox 360 and get ready to burn some calories. Two exercise programs recently released for the 360 with Kinect controller offer a little at-home guidance: Zumba Fitness Core and Nike+ Kinect Training are two vastly different titles but with the same goal.
Nike+ Kinect Training
The slogan behind the Nike+ Kinect Training is "Get Athlete Fit," and the program collaboration between Sumo Digital, Microsoft and uses Nike+ and Nike trainers to deliver intensity and reactive training regimens.
It utilizes two real Nike personal trainers--Alex Molden and Marie Purvis--and users can pick one as their mentor and trainer. The setup allows the trainer to get a fitness baseline to measure progress.
Make sure there is plenty of room and that the Kinect controller can see from the floor on up. The program will have users on their backs doing straight-leg raises and push-ups, lunges, high knee lifts and jumps.
The game does an eerily good job seeing precisely what the user is doing, providing feedback--"raise your knees higher" or, in the case of a push-up, "pull the hips up"--and analyzing the quality of the workout.
The program designs a progressive fitness routine incorporating a wide range of techniques to focus on strength and endurance.
Users commit to a weekly schedule and then the program divvies up the targeted exercise types. Tests are taken periodically to chart progress.
Nike+ may detect that a user's balance is slightly off and contributing to instability when standing on his or her right leg. No problem. The program designs a routine that emphasizes strengthening the deficits in the right leg.
Additionally, as the workout goes on, the program monitors and records how many repetitions are done correctly compared to the overall number of reps attempted.
While Nike+ doesn't do what miCoach from Adidas does in incorporating a lot of games into the workout, it does allow players to participate in a quick game of dodge ball. Not only do you have to dodge the balls coming at you in waves, but you can tack on bonus time by singling out and kicking any soccer balls rolling in your direction.
The graphics are pretty good and utilize a fitness gym setting with a wooden wall behind the player. There are few distractions and the focus is clearly on the workout.
Zumba Fitness Core
This music-driven program uses dance steps to make you sweat by emphasizing two areas--cardio and core. Published by Majesco, the program has prompts to remind users to tighten core muscle groups while working out to increase the quality of the workout.
Because this is a dance-centric workout program, Zumba Core uses six main dance styles, including salsa, meringue and reggaeton, but quickly blows past the basics in the actual workout.
The workouts themselves are broken down into either a single song for those who don't have a lot of time or a full-on Zumba class.
Each song of the 40-track list is further defined by the type of workout (warmup, cardio, core or cardio/core) and intensity level. The low-intensity workouts are more like warm-ups and can also provide nice early morning routines for those about to head out to work for the day.
With the medium- and high-intensity workouts, the routines take different forms. You might pull up a high-intensity workout to the tune of the "Sugar Plum Fairy" and the routine has a real ballet style--lots of movement on the balls of the feet, strong balancing techniques and small jumping motions. Or you might favor "Paris (Ooh La La)," which brings on a rock burlesque dance sequence to work both core and cardio.
For the truly uninhibited, there are belly dancing moves, Brazilian funk and pop routines available.
Each song has an onscreen instructor that players are supposed to try to mimic and a screen inset showing upcoming moves before you get to them.
The backdrop for the whole workout ranges from dance clubs to tropical islands, and all points in-between. Instant feedback is provided with a meter that judges each motion. You might barely complete the move and get a "nice" prompt, get two-thirds of the move down and receive a "hot" comment, or nail the move to a sparkling "ZUMBA" message.
The program will allow up to two players and also allows players to put together a fitness program and track progress.
Both Zumba Fitness and Nike+ are terrific programs and anyone using either will get a great workout. The key is to not just begin an exercise program but stick with it. Neither program can do that for you. Of the two, Nike+ might be a bit more hardcore in nature, but what it does borders on technologically amazing.
Still, either program is a solid recommendation for those looking to get a workout or establish a routine without having to commit to a gym.