Gaming & Technology

Workout game has its strengths, but it's no substitute for real thing

In Nike+ Kinect Training, a personal trainer can work out alongside the player, offering comments on performance and encouragement.
In Nike+ Kinect Training, a personal trainer can work out alongside the player, offering comments on performance and encouragement. Photo courtesy Games Press

A custom home workout is one of those things that should be a perfect fit for the Xbox 360's motion-sensing Kinect technology.

It has the potential to give you feedback that a DVD can't, and unlike hiring an actual personal trainer, you don't have to pay per hour and can work out on your own schedule in your home.

While it suffers from a few technical issues at times, Nike+ Kinect Training offers all of these advantages and more, but it shouldn't be considered a substitute for a traditional workout.

The game begins with a fitness assessment from a male or female trainer that lasts about 30 minutes. Your avatar pops up on the righthand side of the screen side-by-side with the trainer.

Unlike the trainer, which appears as a computer-simulated version of the real trainers in the starting videos, you're represented by a faceless avatar made up of big pixels.

Surprisingly, this works for me.

Since it doesn't show a direct video, I wasn't overly scrutinizing myself. Plus, it tracks your movements and makes it easy to tell what the Kinect sensor can see or has problems understanding.

The color of your virtual self depends on your form and timing. A dazzling white avatar is good, blue is OK, and orange means you're doing something wrong.

After getting set up, you can choose one of three programs — "Get Lean," "Get Strong" or "Get Toned." Since my normal routine is heavy on cardio, I opted for the strength training.

The game also offers quick-start sessions in which you may choose the difficulty and length of workout. There are also five-minute sessions if you're short on time.

The Kinect sensor interpreted my standing exercise movements well, but the floor exercises saw some shortcomings. Sometimes the sensor just wouldn't record any reps. And since the floor exercises are done parallel to the TV, you can't watch how well your form matches the trainer's. It's possible my clothes might have been too loose, as you're instructed to wear non reflective, tight-fitting clothes to help the sensor detect you. But it could have been a calibration issue.

Over time, this technical issue happened less and less, so either I got better at setting up my workout area, improved my pushups form or the Kinect learned how to better record my floor exercises.

The workouts mix up drills of common exercises like burpees, squats, jumping jacks, lunges and variations of push-ups. Every so often, you get to jump around as you avoid virtual dodge balls or walls in something called "Split Decision."

So will I get "Athlete Fit," as the game claims, by playing? Probably not.

It's still a solid workout game, though. The cardio routines on difficult settings will exhaust anyone, and the strength exercises are the same ones you would do at a gym with a personal trainer. There are also plenty of ways to track your fitness and progress, and you can even share it through social media or the Nike+ Kinect Training website.

But I haven't stuck to the program because I would rather hit the gym or go for a run. I already work out four to six days a week and have no desire or real need to cut down on my family time or sleep to do more than that.

But I will push the furniture out of the way and do a quick-start session on days when I can't go to the gym. It's a great supplement to the routine I already have in place, and if I had a dedicated space for Kinect, I could see doing five-minute sessions much more often.

Like any good workout routine, it works if you do it and watch your calorie intake, with an emphasis on the latter.

If you don't have an exercise routine, this may be a good investment. It offers exercises that work, as well as some feedback and instructions. Plus, it offers accountability and a way to track your progress.


'Nike+ Kinect Training'

About: A workout game using Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing technology.

Players: Single, multiplayer

Pros: A variety of workout options, plus ways to keep yourself accountable, make this a great supplement to a normal workout routine.

Cons: The Kinect sensor has some limitations at times.

Availability and price: $49.99 on Xbox 360

ESRB rating: E

Manifesto's rating: 8/10

Metacritic rating: 7.2/10

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