Best Game Consoles for Exercise & Fitness
Last Updated: 10th Mar, 2021
Video gaming has always come with the stigma of being an activity without any physical fitness involved. Stereotypes that cause parents to worry that their kids aren't getting enough exercise, and will be unhealthy for it.
Now times have changed, in the form of fitness and exercise games that are designed to utilize the current motion sensing technology that is incorporated into the current generation of consoles.
Fitness gaming is growing ever more popular because it turns a workout routine, into a fun activity that makes many people forget they are even working out. This makes them work out harder and longer than they might have intended.
The two forerunners of exercise gaming consoles are the Nintendo Switch with ring and the Xbox One with Kinect bundle.
While Kinect has been officially discontinued by Microsoft in 2017, it still holds enough steam to get you grooving. On the other hand, you have the Nintendo Switch, which is the upgraded version of the Wii U and comes with a vast fitness gaming library. They are powerful competitors that are arguably the most popular gaming brand in the world, yet excelling in different areas.
Playstation 4 (or PS4) didn't fare in the list because it has very limited fitness games. It does have a motion controller, but it's more geared toward VR than Fitness gaming.
In this article, I will differentiate both consoles and outline their advantages, as well as listing the most popular titles that offer the most effective and entertaining workout routines.
Head On Comparison
Nintendo Switch with Ring Con
Xbox One with Kinect
Go for the Nintendo switch if your primary requirement is exercise and training. The console offers a playful and fun approach to gamify fitness and ties it with your weight loss goals. It also doubles up as a portable gaming console for kids and adults to play with on the go. It does have a vast gaming library of its own, but most of them are imaginative which are ideal for kids and families. Games like Legends of Zelda are exclusively available on the Nintendo platform. Moreover, it's constantly updated with new releases every now and then.
Choose Xbox One with Kinect, if you are looking for fitness as well as mainstream gaming. The Xbox one is more powerful in terms of hardware, which results in better graphics and overall gameplay experience. It has a limited number of exercise based games, but they all are of high-quality and should suffice for light to medium workout. On the other hand, Xbox one is a serious gaming console allowing you to play heavy games like Fifa, Forza, Fortnite, etc.
Nintendo Switch - Specs, Features & Review
The Nintendo Switch is a ground-breaking console. It was the first to combine traditional living room gaming with the portable handheld systems that Nintendo made famous with the Game Boy (released in 1989).
Its internal battery life is approximately 4.5 - 9 hours long, depending on what game you are playing and its processing dependency. Some games can be more graphically dependent on power, and can see as lows at 2.5 hours of battery life. To play it on a television screen, you can sit the Switch into its dock and plug in the USB into the AC adapter. This way, it is not powered by its internal battery and allows a higher resolution of graphics quality.
The Switch comes with a modest 32 GB of memory, which will be used to install and save games. If the player does require more memory, then you can purchase a micro SD card to increase its storage.
When the Switch is taken from the dock, it automatically transitions to its handheld variation. This allows the player the freedom of taking their entertainment anywhere, as well as still offering its multiplayer functionality. When in this mode, the graphic quality is 720p (HD), which is quite impressive for a handheld device. When docked and played on the television, it is boosted to 900p. Unfortunately, 4k output is yet to be integrated into the Switch.
Its controllers (called Joy-Cons) are removable from the system, which can either be used together for a single player or can be used as two individual controllers for multiplayer games. Popular multiplayer titles include Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Party, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Splatoon 2.
Nintendo began revolutionizing the integration of fitness with gaming when it released its Wii system in 2006. On release, the Wii came with Wii Sports, which was a collection of 5 games that required the players to physically move while playing. The handheld 'nunchucks' and their motion-sensing capability were used to simulate the movement necessary for the sport they were playing. The titles included were Tennis, Golf, boxing, baseball, and bowling.
Wii sports is credited for making the Wii a worldwide success, which revitalized the Nintendo gaming company and made them a major contender again.
After the Wii 2, the Nintendo Switch was released, which not only could be played on a TV screen, but also took inspiration from its own handheld consoles like the 'Game Boy' and 'DS' systems.
Like its predecessor, the Switch is controlled by two removable controllers that have advanced motion sensing technology built into them. This allows for some exciting results when it comes to playing its impressive selection of fitness games.
The Joy-Con can be inserted into several plastic cast adapters, such as tennis rackets or steering wheels, so the player can be immersed further in the activity they are playing.
The Nintendo Switch is more geared towards casual gamers rather than serious ones. This makes it an ideal choice for kids and adults looking for fun games to pass the time on the go. The other great is that most games are non-violent, making it even safer for the kids.
To Summarize: Nintendo Switch is far the best gaming console for fitness in 2020. The extensive selection of interactive fitness games, varying level of exercise challenges, and affordable pricing makes it our top pick. What's more, the console comes with a vast selection of Kid-friendly games, making it an ideal choice for the whole family.
Top Nintendo Switch Fitness Games:
1) Ring Fit Adventure
Explore a rich fantasy world, where your mission is to defeat a bodybuilding dragon. 'Ring Fit Adventure' takes the role-playing genre and combines it with a very untraditional element – Fitness!
By inserting the Joy-Con into the fitness ring, your workout defeats enemies and level up your character up.
Visually this game is stunning, using its soft stylized graphics to make it inviting, and at the same time, reminding players of titles such as the Zelda games to reinstate that it is not all about working out.
The workout styles are easy to navigate, with a generous number of exercises in each category that cover most areas of the body. Just a few exercise routines available are Knee-to-chest, Overhead lunge twist, Bow pull, Squats, Sprints, and Chair pose. In total, the game supports over 40 exercises.
The campaign is lengthy, with 20 contrasting worlds to play and over 100 levels in total. Once the game is complete, you can either replay the workouts you enjoyed, or explore the custom and quick-play modes instead.
The Ring Fit Adventure has accomplished what it set out to do – combine fantasy gaming with working out. Though having the hefty price of $95, It does include the addition of the leg strap and the Ring-con, which this fitness game revolves around using.
2) Just Dance 2020
The title says it all! Dance to 40 of the latest hits, and get fit doing it. Songs include 'I don't care' by Ed Sheeran, Bangarang by Skrillex Ft. Sirah, 'Bad guy' by Billie Eilish, and the newest anthem of the Frozen film series 'into the unknown' that appears in the sequel that was only released earlier this month.
If players wanted to increase their playlist, then they can purchase 'Just dance unlimited' that unlocks an impressive 500+ songs to sweat it out too.
A children-friendly mode is included in this game, which offers a fun experience to children of all ages, without any physically demanding move sets.
The game utilizes the motion sensors in the Joy-Cons. They will pick up if the player has completed the move right, by the direction, force, and angle of their hands. The game supports a wide range of exercises resulting in total body workout.
'Just Dance 2020' can be played with up to 4 players if a second 'Joy-Con' is used, and each player holds one half. Challenge family and friends to a dance-off, which will be a fun way to burn calories as well as being a hit at parties.
3) Fitness Boxing
This game enables the player to punch their way into shape. The exercises are set to instrumental beats of popular songs that encourage you to keep up with the beat – just like you are at the gym. You can even unlock 20' secret tracks' if you complete particular objectives.
Using attractive and fun workout prompts, the player can do an array of boxing techniques to hit targets and combinations. It can be played by 2 players that set them both up to compete against each other or simply do the exercise routine together.
The game estimates the daily calories burned, to help the player track their progress.
A brilliant feature of 'Fitness Boxing' is the extremely customizable workout routines. Also, you can set a daily workout that can be completed by 2 players daily, as well as 1. This can act as a motivator, as it will require both players to complete.
4) Zumba: Burn It Up!
Zumba is, without a doubt, the best-known dance workout in the world, with an estimated 15 million people taking weekly classes around the globe.
This home version of the workout allows the choice of the dance style, as well as the intensity. With its popularity in over 186 countries, Zumba: Burn It Up! allows the player to experience the different dance routines from all different cultures.
This game comes with over 30 recent hit songs, such as 'I like it' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin, 'Level up' by Ciara and 'Azukita' by Steve Aoki. The graphics and visuals of the game are exciting, vibrant, and high-energy. It is exactly what you would expect from a Zumba workout.
Zumba: Burn It Up! can be played by up to 4 players and has 30 classes to choose from that will suit any fitness level, so it doesn't matter if the player is only just starting their fitness journey, or has been exercising for a while.
5) Sports Party
The spiritual successor of Wii Sports, this game offers a number of challenges that can be played with the whole family. The collection of games available in the Sports Party is frisbee, jet-skiing, basketball, golf, skateboarding, and beach tennis. Each mode uses the Jon-Cons in a specific way to perform the activity.
The playable avatars in the game are fully customizable, with items that can be unlocked for them as they progress through the game.
It can be played with up to 4 players and is extremely easy to pick up and play, making it perfect for family parties where members of all ages can have a go.
It is a fun workout that concentrates more on the sport, then it does on personal fitness. It is up to the player how much exercise they can get from it. The plastic cast tennis rackets that can be purchased separately can be used in this game, which will immerse the player further.
Fly around the screen and punch a variety of fighters to victory! The flight mechanics of this game are navigated smoothly through the motion and buttons on the Jon-Con. The contrasting and various areas create uniquely challenging modes that will have the player wanting to experience them all.
There are different 'arms' to choose from, each with its own unique attributes. This means the player can be strategic with which one they equip for different results. You also choose from 10 different characters, with extremely different attributes, personalities, and storylines.
The cartoon graphics are fun and vibrant, making it less violent and more arcade-style. This makes the game a perfect exercise for both kids and adults alike. ARMS can be played by up to 2 players in the same room, using 2 sets of Joy-Cons.
ARMS is the first fighting game of its kind. It will not feel like a workout routine and more of a 'Rockem Sockem' kind of experience.
Xbox One Specs, Features & Review
Microsoft's Xbox One was released in 2013, as the next console to follow the wildly successful Xbox 360. It boasts an array of state of the art features such as voice recognition and the use of the Kinect camera, which can even see players in the dark!
The current series of the Xbox One is the 'X', which further improves its functionality by offering 4K graphics, 4K Blue-ray, and 4K streaming – providing the player has a compatible TV. It uses High dynamic technology to make the graphics richer, sharper, and more luminous in color.
The memory that comes with both the Xbox One 'X' and 'S' edition is 1TB.
Another feature of the Xbox One, which makes it popular, especially to the Microsoft veteran players, is the backward compatibility of Xbox 360 games.
The Xbox One has been a forerunner of the online multiplayer experience, especially with popular titles such as 'Fornite' and 'Apex Legends,' though these games do require an online connection and are limited when it comes to same room multiplayer capabilities.
The Kinect allows the use of fitness split-screen gaming in the same room, which doesn't require the additional cost a controller as the players only need to use their bodies to play.
The Xbox One has offered fitness games since its release. The games vary in genres and styles allowing the player versatility of their workout style, difficulty, and genre.
Using the Kinect camera, which is the leading in motion-sensing technology, the player can not only be completely tracked in whatever workout game they are playing but can also put them visually into the game. This creates an immersive experience like no other, making the exercise routine far more exciting, with also allowing the player to see how hard they are working from the outside.
To Summarize: Xbox One with Kinect is a decent fitness console and an excellent gaming console. It's like killing two birds with one stone. Although the selection of exercise games are limited and outdated but still good enough for a healthy workout. You don't need to worry about the pure gaming aspect of the console, as it's primarily built for that.
Top Xbox One fitness games
1) Shape Up
Punch asteroids and bench-press elephants to fitness! In Shape Up, the player is given the opportunity to take part in an unconventional workout, from the comfort of their living room.
As well as its standard 15-minute routines that gets the heart pumping, it also has a thrilling 90-second challenge mode, that makes hard workout routines fun. In fact, it may even have the player working out longer than intended once they get hooked on it.
The fun minigames are short, unique and can get a lot of exercise done in a short period of time.
Shape Up can be played with up to 2 people, using the Kinect camera to track both players. This can challenge friends and family into competitive battles against each other, which will have them all working even harder to take the victory.
2) Zumba Fitness World Party
Zumba has taken the world by storm, and with the Kinect, you can see yourself sweating away to over 40 new routines and songs.
Some of the artists included in this high paced dancing extravaganza are Daddy Yankee, Pit-bull, and Lady Gaga. There are over 30 different dance styles from all around the world, including Bollywood, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Blues, Girly funk, and of course, the favorite – Salsa.
Zumba Fitness World Party includes a progress tracker that records everything from calories burned, technique, achievement, and goals met.
Though this game originally came out on the Xbox 360, the Xbox One's backward compatibility allows it to play on the new console, with improved tracking thanks to the Kinect 2.0. This does mean that it can be picked up for less than $25, as it is an older title.
2) Microsoft Kinect Sports Rivals
Kinect Sports Rivals Xbox One was created to utilize the graphical power the Xbox One has to offer, as well as the improved Kinect 2.0 to scan and capture every movement of the player instantly. It will even capture how you look and act to personalize the game entirely to the players.
Some of the modes included are bowling, jetski racing, tennis cliff climbing, target shooting, soccer, and wake racing. The responsive tracking gives these games unparalleled accuracy and authenticity.
A unique feature of this game is that you are given a choice to join 1 of 3 teams. It provides the player with a sense of community and encouragement to work out and achieve goals together.
3) Just Dance
In this latest version of the Just Dance series, players are given the opportunity to try challenging and fun workouts to recent hits such as '7 rings' by Ariana Grande, 'Talk' by Khalid, and 'Old town road road' by Lil Nas X.
The Kinect camera puts the player into the action, with cool and vibrant visuals around them that will add to the party atmosphere of this dance workout.
A great feature of this title is that if a player has an older console without the Kinect bar, they can connect their smartphone to use it as a sensor tracker.
Another great feature of Just Dance is that it has seated dance modes. This is ideal for those who wish to exercise but have disabilities or trouble standing.
PS4 Fitness Games
Playstation does not have an extensive fitness game library like Xbox or Nintendo. The only fitness game which I feel works well with the PS4 is the Just Dance 2020. You can either use the Playstation move controller, PS4 camera, or your phone. In terms of accuracy, the move controller works the best, followed by the camera and lastly, your phone.
Besides Just dance, I couldn't find any other exercise-based game. But this is quite expected as PS4 is primarily geared towards serious gamers.
Nintendo Switch vs Xbox One. What is the difference?
The Xbox One's Kinect camera allows fully trackable body functionality, whereas the Switch depends only on the Joy-Cons to track the movement of the player. The Kinect is completely hands-free, meaning you don't need to hold or attach anything to your body.
The Kinect camera does require space in your living room to play, as the camera will need the player's whole body in view. The Switch isn't as demanding on space as it only requires the Joy-Cons to be held. Though it is advised by Nintendo to only play in a clear space, so the player can't accidentally hit something around them.
Though the Xbox One offers extremely versatile titles with differentiating themes, the Switch has the more extensive selection of games in its roster. Some of the Switch titles do require additional add-ons to play them. For example, the 'Ring-Con' that comes with the Ring Fit Adventure is needed to play and adds extra expense onto the title.
Nintendo creates mainly games with motion-sensing technology in mind - fitness, and exercise games being the obvious choice. Microsoft often concentrates on developing mainstream titles, that go on to be highly successful. These games are often heavily story-based or depend on game mechanics which can't be played with the Kinect.
The most recent series of the Xbox One (X series) is the costlier console out of the 2, coming in at roughly $350, which gets you the console and a single controller. It is worth noting that the older 'S' series is less expensive, and still works with the Kinect technology required for most of the fitness titles they have to offer.
The Nintendo Switch comes in around $285 for the console, with only one variation as it was only released in 2017.
The Xbox One is graphically superior to the Nintendo Switch but is only really utilized through its mainstream titles that demand high-quality graphics. The graphics on the fitness games on the Xbox One don't utilize the graphics as much, and so in comparison is only slightly more upscaled to the Switch.
Though the Xbox One comes with far more memory than the Switch (1TB vs. 32GB), the Xbox One is far more dependent on memory for its performance. Its games have much larger files that must be fully downloaded onto the system, which does take up quite a lot of room. That being said, if a player were to play fitness games on their consoles primarily, and not other mainstream titles, the memory taken up wouldn't be much at all.
However, the most crucial point you need to consider is that Kinect has been discontinued by Microsoft. So you won't be getting any updates or newer fitness games. In contrast, Nintendo Switch was released in 2017 and has been continuously developed since then.
Though both consoles have their pros and cons when it comes to fitness games, the buyer must ask themselves three questions: What do I want from experience? What selection of games would I like? How much am I willing to spend?
Let's Wrap Things Up:
Your choice for gaming consoles for fitness is limited to two options: Nintendo Switch and Xbox One with Kinect. As discussed above, both the consoles are equally excellent with there own pros and cons. What you choose boils down to your personal preference and needs.
Time and again, it has been proven exergames are an excellent way to shed extra weight (source). Research has shown you can shed up to 100 to 140 calories every 30 minutes playing fitness games (link). The issue with traditional fitness regimes or going to the gym is that either they're too boring or are time-consuming.
With fitness gaming consoles, you can exercise whenever and however you want it, right from the comfort of your game. Moreover, it's more engaging and interactive, helping you stay committed to your fitness goals.