Fitness Programs

1. Wii Fit Plus and Wii Fit U

(Wii, Wii U)

They say that numbers don’t lie, and Wii Fit takes the top spot due to its incredible popularity during the seventh generation console era.

It’s the only fitness title for a home console (Nintendo Wii) to become a top-ten bestseller. 22.67 million and 21.13 million copies of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus have sold respectively as of Oct. 2017.

Wii Fit tracks your center of balance, weight and movement via the Balance Board peripheral, so naturally it excels at balance games and yoga. A variety of strength training and aerobic activities are also included.

Even over a decade after its launch, there is nothing out there anything like Wii Fit. And over the years, people have found new ways to better lives by using it for physiotherapy rehabilitation and gaming rehabilitation.

Nintendo Wii U Fit Balance Board and Meter Nintendo Wii U Fit Balance Board and Meter
List Price: $38.00
Sale Price: $34.99

2. Dance Dance Revolution series

(Arcade)

First released in 1998, DDR is a pioneering game in the rhythm and dance genre that has seen various iterations over the years, from the flagship arcade game to home console versions.

Players interact with the “dance platform” by stepping on four colored zones laid out in a cross pattern. Visual cues are provided and players step on the correct square, or combination or squares to the rhythm of the music.

DDR provides an incredibly fun, involving way to do casual step aerobics, and will sneakily give you a cardio workout while you’re preoccupied with reaching a high score.

Wii Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad Controller Wii Dance Dance Revolution Dance Pad Controller
List Price: $19.49
Sale Price: $14.99

3. ARMS

(Switch)

Armed with a heart rate monitor, one Redditor posted the results of playing ARMS for about an hour, showing that he managed to burn over 500 calories.

ARMS may not be generally touted as a great way to exercise, but we’re got all the evidence we need that it’s a very underrated way for a gamer that often shies away from physical activity to boost their BPM.

Called a “far wackier take on the boxing genre” than Nintendo’s Punch-Out! By IGN, it shares a similarity to the Wii classic in that it makes great use of motion controls. Players have the option of employing Joy-Con controllers to strafe, block, jab, and uppercut their way to victory.

ARMS has a lot of depth in its combat system which serious gamers will appreciate. This sets it apart from other more obvious fitness game options, which are generally very casual in terms of gameplay.

ARMS - Nintendo Switch ARMS - Nintendo Switch
List Price: $59.99
Sale Price: $54.40

4. EA Sports Active and EA Sports Active 2

(Wii, PS3, Xbox 360)

Wii Fit opened the door for other developers to get in on the fitness game trend, and one of the best offerings to come from it is EA Sports Active. The series includes the original game, EA Sports Active: More Workouts, EA Sports Active 2, and an Active 2 spinoff named EA Sports Active: NFL Training Camp, which is geared towards football fans and a male audience.

Whereas Wii Fit was best at balance games and yoga, EA Sports Active delivers a good cardio workout. It successfully takes the place of video workout programs, and adds real-time feedback from a virtual personal trainer, plus the ability to track your progress.

Active and Active 2 both offer different activities; although improved Active 2 isn’t a replacement of the original but a continuation. Each game uses an entirely different approach to track your movements, and most agree that Active 2 beats the original at this as it has proprietary motion detectors you strap to your arm and leg rather than relying solely on the Wii remote and nunchuck.

Those looking to pick these up today should note Active 2 online features have been shut down, but this shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying what it still has to offer.

EA Sports Active 2 EA Sports Active 2
List Price: $34.47
Sale Price: $26.20

5. Just Dance series

(PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Wii)

Just Dance started its life as a Wii exclusive and since the release of Just Dance 3 has expanded to all major consoles.

To keep up with the ever-changing pop music landscape, a new version is released each year. Many games in the series boast over 40 tracks made up of recent hits as well as a few classic numbers.

Just Dance offers a fun, immersive experience. A few songs in you’ll notice your heart rate has really ramped up, and you’ll be having such a good time you won’t quit. Another incentive to keep exercising is the added challenge of mastering the dance steps, which are creative, well choreographed, and will consistently pull the average gamer out of their comfort zone.

Its ability to track your movements accurately isn’t a strong suit, although it’s impeccable at detecting if you have the basic rhythm of the dance routine down. Frankly if your stabs at replicating the movements the dancer is doing on-screen are as spotty, it could be seen as a blessing that it’s forgiving about judging your skill.

If you’re into pop music and dancing, but need an excuse to get up and shake it at home, this is it.

Just Dance 2019 - Nintendo Switch Standard Edition Just Dance 2019 - Nintendo Switch Standard Edition
List Price: $39.99
Sale Price: $29.88

Since P90X and P90X3 empowers its users to bypass gym membership fees, as well as eliminating the need for an extensive home gym, accessibility is a prime reason it has become astonishingly popular.

One of the best aspects of the P90X system is that it challenges you without the need for heavy, expensive equipment. Only a pull-up bar and either resistance bands or dumbbells are required.

Why Dumbbells Over Resistance Bands?

Gym rats claiming that dumbbells are objectively the best choice have it wrong. Studies have concluded that a dumbbell or resistance band with the same weight/resistance rating has the same ability to build and tone muscle.

Unlike workout machines, either offers a free range of motion as well. So your movements won’t be restricted in an unnatural manner.

The key difference here in terms of function is that with dumbbells you’re lifting against gravity while with resistance bands you’re lifting against tension.

Although resistance bands are great for travel, dumbbells are incredibly robust and a quality product can last a lifetime. Although manufacturers such as Bodylastics are beefing up their resistance bands so snapping is less likely, their offerings are made from materials that degrade over time (latex, rubber, etc.). If you’re working out at home why not choose what’s best in the long-term?

Range of Weights Recommended

For best results and to adapt to your current fitness capabilities, you’ll want a wide range of dumbbells at your disposal or adjustable dumbbells. Exercises such as triceps kickbacks require light weights, while others like heavy pants are intended to be executed with heavy resistance.

The P90X Fitness Guide suggests using a range of dumbbells starting at 5 pounds and going as high as 70 pounds.

Fixed vs. Adjustable Dumbbells

You’d need a rack filled with fixed dumbbells (ranging from 5 to 60 lbs.) to replace most adjustable dumbbells. So by going with an adjustable model, you’ll save space and if you need a comprehensive set, money too.

Adjustable dumbbell brands like Bowflex have gone high-tech. SelectTech 560 includes Bluetooth connectivity which syncs and records sets, reps and the weight used. Results are viewed via the Bowflex SelectTech App.

People with plenty of space looking to build a more professional gym at home may prefer the convenience of traditional dumbbells. Rather than pausing the P90X video to change the weight of your adjustable dumbbells, you’ve got the ability to quickly grab what is needed from a rack.

Most people however, will be better off going with adjustable dumbbells as they offer a greater value.

For more analysis on the characteristics of both fixed and adjustable dumbbells, read the full article here.

Which Adjustable Dumbbells to Choose?

Bowflex and PowerBlock are the most popular makers of adjustable dumbbells, and within these two camps the choices are simple.

There is essentially an option for average fitness needs and an amped up version for fitness enthusiasts, power lifters and athletes. Specifically, the Bowflex SelectTech 552/560 or PowerBlock Personal Trainer Set is for most people, and the SelectTech 1090 or PowerBlock Elite for the highest achievers.

On the Bowflex side the SelectTech 560 is the latest model replacing the 552.

Which Fixed Dumbbells to Get?

Dumbbell sets for light lifting are commonly encased in vinyl or neoprene. These are commonly intended for women with average fitness goals.

Sets with weights above 20 lbs. are fundamentally made of cast iron.

Brands are much less significant in this space compared to adjustable dumbbells, as these are comparably simple products to make. That being said, XMARK and CAP offer quality products and are among the best sellers on Amazon.com.

Don’t be fooled by starter fixed dumbbell sets with low price tags, as you’ll easily outgrow these, and the included weights won’t cover what is need to get the most out of P90X or P90X3.

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Photo: Jim

autumn_pr_images_hires_1Since diet will make or break the result of your workout regimen, it’s surprising that most fitness video programs don’t talk about it at all, or annoyingly go over it just enough to push affiliated supplement products.

Autumn Calabrese's 21 Day Fix program has taken on the ambitious task of teaching you everything you need to know to lose 15 pounds in 21 days. The base kit includes 2 DVDs with exercise routines, a food container system that makes it easier to prevent overeating, and an eating plan that includes basic recipes. For those yearning for more mind-blowing before and after photos or dazzling at an important event, a 3 Day Quick Fix has been included which is primarily intended to be done directly after the 21 day program.

Of course the question you’re here to answer is, is it any good? Let’s get to that. Each segment of Autumn Calabrese's system has been evaluated separately to keep this review tidy as there is a decent bit to cover: videos, eating plan, containers/cup, plus 3 Day Quick Fix.

7 workouts on 2 DVDs

The main attraction is of course Autumn Calabrese’s workout videos. For those unfamiliar with her day job, Calabrese is a celebrity trainer that has helped Rachel Zoe, Brooke Burke, and Tom Bergeron. Also, being a mother of one and fitness competition competitor has given her a unique approach to fitness.

To follow the schedule, you’ll do seven 30-minute workouts per week.

21-day-fixThe first disc contains a full body fix, upper and lower fix, pilates, and abs workout. The second has cardio, dirty 30, yoga and another 10-minute fix for abs.

Each exercise is done for a full minute, which is enough time to get your heart pumping. After there is 20 second cool-down in which Autumn talks about and demonstrates the next routine. The pace is pretty easy to keep up with, which is good for beginners, as you won’t dread another day of joint pain or feeling like you’re always a step behind the instructor.

The workouts include new and unusual workout routines that are spins on classic maneuvers, such as the one-arm row in plank position. So prepare for some new challenges along the way.

21 Day Fix Eating Plan

It’s estimated that 70% of your results will come from changes in diet.

The 21 Day Fix Eating Plan isn’t a fad diet that means eating nothing but fruits and vegetables, or drinking an excess of health shakes. It’s just a balance of healthy foods you’re likely already eating, just less of it.

It’s a disciplined diet. However, it’s not so strict that it takes all the fun out of eating. The containers might even encourage you to be creative and come up with healthy treats while keeping true to the rules.

If putting a little whipped cream on your fruit salad feels like the reward you need after a hard workout, go with it. Bending the rules within reason might mean the difference completely quitting and getting the results you’ve been yearning for.

Very basic meal ideas are included to keep you on track, ex. grilled chicken with steamed veggies and extra virgin coconut oil, or steamed fish with steamed veggies. You won’t be winning any culinary awards with these meals, but the approach works, and less time in the kitchen will make up for the added time in the exercise room.

Portion-control containers plus Shakeology shaker cup

The beauty of the container system is simplicity. You don’t have to count calories or weigh your foods. Instead, each color-coded container is intended for a different type of food, ex. green for veggies, red for proteins. This method may not be totally accurate, but it’s good enough to serve its purpose.

The major concern here is if you really need this level of handholding. You could easily measure your foods by volume in a measuring cup then put it into Tupperware you already own. Sure, getting custom containers saves you the measuring step and is idiot-proof, but for some people’s preferences or needs it just adds extra cost.

If you prepare your own lunches at home and take it to work, the gym, or elsewhere the idea is worthwhile. For homebodies that aren’t as busy, it’s simply a luxury.

3 Day Quick Fix

This is a jump-start for a leaner, sexier, new you. It’s an eating plan designed to maximize fat loss. Autumn Calabrese developed it based on her own experience so she had that extra edge before competitions or photo shoots. Now you can too!

The basic rules are you can eat: streamed veggies, lean white proteins, oatmeal, yams, limes, lemons and spices. You cannot eat/drink Shakeology, fruit, or salt.

When Wii came out in 2006 gamers were given the impression most games would involve considerable activity.

In time it became clear waggle-ware, requiring subtle wrist and arm movements, vastly outnumbered the more strenuous variety.

Although a slew of fitness games came out for the Wii during its peak and later for the Xbox 360 Kinect, most fell short of expectations. Although software that tracks your movements sounded good on paper, implementation often left something to be desired.

What this new approach did right is it gave working out entertainment value and interactivity. With so many forms of amusing distractions out there that lock you onto the couch, owning games that make you sweat provides a counterbalance.

Naturally those looking for an enhanced workout gravitate towards titles like EA Sport Active, Wii Fit Plus, Your Shape Fitness Evolved, and Zumba Fitness.

In the process dance titles that offer a solid cardio workout like the Just Dance and DDR are often overlooked. Although their primary focus is merely fun, sometimes that’s the best motivator there is.

Just Dance was first released for the Wii in 2009. Due to its astronomical popularity publisher UBI Soft has consistently been pumping out sequels and spinoffs. Each major release boasts 40 plus new tracks so it makes sense that it has continued to fly off the shelves.

Like with any Wii game you can cheat the system and play as lazily as possible while still achieving high scores. So you’ll need to be self-motivated to get a good workout from Just Dance. I imagine this isn’t the case with the Kinect version, since it tracks the position of your entire body, although I haven’t tested it myself.

Starting with Just Dance 2, “just sweat” mode was added. It allows players to measure the energy they expend as well as set fitness objectives to be met during their dance sessions.

While Just Dance doesn’t offer sophisticated fitness components you'd expect from an exergame, the fun factor, choreography, stunning visuals and great music more than make up for it.

There are reports online of people losing substantial weight purely with Just Dance so clearly features like weight tracking, calendar features, etc. aren’t as significant as motivators as we’ve been lead to believe. It’s way more important that the software is fun, intuitive and free of technical frustrations.

Just Dance 4 - Nintendo Wii Just Dance 4 - Nintendo Wii
List Price: $19.99
Sale Price: $17.76

The downside is you’ll eventually tire of the tracks requiring you to pick up new versions so it stays fresh. With a game like EA Sports Active for example the music is generic, however you can turn it off and play your own MP3s with another device. Granted this is an apples to oranges comparison but it’s an integral factor to consider when assessing replay value of the Just Dance series.

Another advantage Just Dance offers over fitness games is its fun to play with a group. While exercise carries connotation of work and strain with it, dancing does not. Your friends might even be the ones who will con you into getting off your rump and popping it in.

Overall you’d be crazy not to try it even if you’re not big on bubblegum pop. Think of it as a guilty pleasure or claim it’s “for the kids” if need be.

People are attracted to the image of workout systems like P90X and Insanity. It’s hardcore! It causes even the toned, anatomically perfect people on screen to break a serious sweat. Additionally, who doesn’t want fast results?

The reality is often what we perceive we need and what we actually need are two very different things.

Claims that anyone can do P90X and that one simply needs to tough it out are more likely to cause someone to quit than empower them. Naturally, any workout should challenge you but if you feel like you’re at the foot of Mt. Everest when you pop in the P90X DVD something is wrong.

If you’re out of shape, overweight, no longer a young pup, or a combination of all three, you need to start small.

Go on brisk walks more regularly, or dust off the mountain bike. Do simple exercises each day like squats, pushups, jumping jacks, and workout your upper body with resistance bands.

Once you start to feel the increased vitality regular exercise provides and confidence in your fitness level has improved, it’s time to move on to a beginner’s workout system.

Jillian Michaels’ workout videos like 30 Day Shred, Ripped in 30, and 6 Week Six-Pack are an inexpensive, noncommittal way to get started. If you prefer to learn from a man, Bob Harper and Billy Blanks are also a popular choice.

Beachbody offers alternatives that are overshadowed by the success of P90X. The first is POWER 90: a less demanding 90-day regimen. The second is 10 Minute Trainer: a system for the busiest people or those not willing to do a 30-minute session every day.

For more detail, read my previous post about alternatives to P90X.

Once you’ve graduated from the options mentioned above or something similar, this is the right time to pick up P90X.

The problem with fitness advice is we often go to people who are much more advanced than ourselves for guidance who are more likely doers than teachers. Unless you’re speaking to a professional trainer it’s sometimes hard for people in good shape to step into the shoes of someone who isn’t. This is why I think it’s so common for people to recommend advanced systems like P90X and Insanity even when it’s not appropriate.

Keep in mind that we all need to start at the bottom floor. There’s no magic bullet or shortcut to a body you’re proud to show off at the beach.

Don’t be ashamed of starting small and with feasible goals. Let your mantra be any activity is better than no activity. It may take you farther than you ever imagined.

On a whim I bought the USS Enterprise of electric toothbrushes. My teeth are important, I reasoned, therefore I need a state-of-the-art tool.

How wrong I was. Once the post-purchase haze settled I went back to the modest but effective manual brush. Using it felt more comfortable.

It reminded me of a lesson I sometimes forget.

Sometimes the simplest, least expensive equipment fits your individual needs the best.

The same is especially true with fitness.

Part of the appeal of P90X is that it eliminates the need for a workout mega-station or a gym membership. All you need to get started is a chin-up bar, resistance bands or dumbbells, and an exercise mat.

People opt for resistance bands for three main reasons. First, because they’re flexible, accommodating a huge variety of exercises. Second, because they’re lightweight and highly portable. Thirdly, they’re wieldier than free weights to some, making the workout experience more natural.

While the varieties of resistance bands look mostly the same, quality, features and extras vary greatly. Excited to start with the program, people often pick up low quality bands on impulse, giving them a bad impression of fitness tubes as a workout solution.

To make the search easier I’ve ranked the five sets I like the best, also putting into account feedback from my workout companions.

Most brands offer a starter set, a comprehensive set and options for people with more specific goals. I’ll be focusing on the best-selling configurations.

Selections are based on overall build quality, value, usefulness of features, and of course how convenient they are to use with P90X.

1. Black Mountain Products Set

Making the top of the list is the popular set from Black Mountain Products. It includes 5 bands with surgical-grade tubing, attachable handles, door anchor, ankle strap and bag.

The clip system allows you to attach multiple bands at once, making it great for rigorous workouts requiring heavy resistance.

The padded handles are top-notch. However you only get one pair. It’s impractical to switch between tubes while keeping up with Tony Horton and his crew. Getting an extra set of handles is a necessity.

2. Bodylastics 12 pcs Set

Bodylastics system is stackable, utilizing a quick clip system to get anywhere from 3 to 96 lbs. of tension. Altogether you get 5 color-coded bands, foam covered handles, 2 ankle straps, heavy-duty door anchor, and bag.

They claim their continuous dipped latex tubes are 99% snap resistant and failsafe. This isn’t just marketing hype because there is a woven cord in the interior of the bands. While it is tough to confirm improved performance anecdotally, Bodylastics bands are well rated by users with few complaints about snapping – a persistent problem with cheap tubes.

Again, you’ll need an extra pair of handles for quickly swapping bands without meddling with the clip system. Every second counts. You don’t want to become a slave to the pressing the pause button, as this will kill your momentum.

3. SPRI Advanced Traveling Trainer

This set includes 3 SPRI Xertubes (light, medium, and heavy), door attachment, and travel bag. You’ll need to purchase ankle straps separately to make lower body exercises easier.

The SPRI set stands out because the handles are pre-attached. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it makes changing resistance levels quick; you don’t need to mess with clips. On the other, you can’t combine multiple tubes for more tension.

Quality is comparable to top options although the price is a little steep at $39.99 considering you only get 3 bands rather than 5 like with Black Mountain or Bodylastics.

4. Ripcords Black Sniper Edition Set

Those that want a variety of options in resistance but prefer to have the handle permanently attached will prefer this set from Ripcords. The black sniper edition includes a strong tube that offers resistance levels up to 62 lbs. On top of that you get 5 bands and a door hook, making it a good value at only $54.99.

The most notable difference with Ripcords is the “ergonomic” handle design. Rather than a PVC tube or foam, the handle is molded plastic that slightly tapers towards the ends. To some it’s a little less comfortable but the advantage is your bands don’t smell like a locker room after an intense P90X session.

Ripcords offers a lifetime warrantee incase a band snaps. The catch is you’ll need to pay for shipping. It’s not a perfect solution but still cheaper than buying a replacement.

5. Aylio Basic Set

Ranking fifth the Aylio set is decent but offers less for your money.

Essentially, it excludes the lightest band common in 5 tube sets. You get a low, medium, high, and ultra-high-strength resistance band, door attachment, ankle straps and an attractive pouch.

Although the tube quality is good, users have noted the clips can sometimes snap off the band.

Extra handles are available for $12.99: essential for those following P90X.