If last year could be classified in any way, shape or form, it would likely be viewed as the year that unexpected technological resources made their mark on fitness, with some even experiencing a renaissance. Believe it or not, video games once again made their way back into the favor of doctors and trainers once again this year, as the digital industry opened itself up to uniting physical fitness and entertainment. Resembling the shades of the Nintendo Wii era of gaming, motion controls came back onto the scene in tandem with a newcomer in the form of ever-expanding virtual reality concepts.

Together, these styles of games have instigated a wave of experiences on current generation gaming hardware that open the door to fitness being fun in both a familiar yet different sense. Where traditional exercises might be the best fit for most individuals, those who have a more difficult time sticking to regular routines might find it easier to latch on to workouts through gaming.

Through entertainment, we often are distracted from the aspects of fitness or taking care of ourselves that occasionally feel tedious, tiring, or just flat out difficult. On top of that, much exercise is fueled in the name of competition, which is inherently provided by the concept of gaming at its core. These two factors paired with the ease of accessibility that is offered in games nowadays — through the simplicity of motion controls or the immersion of virtual reality — have created great avenues for patients and even doctors to venture down.

Just Dance 2019

Topping most similar lists for a number of years, the Just Dance series of games simply continues to provide some of the most physically engaging content on the current generation of gaming consoles — as well as the previous two generations as well. Speaking to the game’s incredible availability, Just Dance 2019 was recently released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, as well as the Nintendo Switch, Wii U, and Wii systems. With such a large scope of formats available, many more people are able to dance along to the 40 chart-topping tracks that come packaged in the software itself. These include music and choreography from popular artists such as Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars, and Britney Spears. In addition, this track list can be extended to up to 400 songs through developer Ubisoft’s online subscription service, Just Dance Unlimited. With that much content, users are sure to be moving and grooving to the beat year after year.

SuperHOT VR

Released on PlayStation 4 VR as well as Microsoft Windows for functionality with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam VR, SuperHOT takes its bill for fitness in a little different direction. Instead of moving to the music, this more action-oriented shoot-em-up simulator has its players fighting through waves of enemies in a variety of different ways. Entirely cartoony and even comical in nature, users will go from quickly turning to shoot bad guys to punching, kicking, and throwing them — all within the virtual reality space. While not initially pegged as a fitness standout among the gaming market, SuperHOT has obtained this reputation almost entirely from user reports and accounts. Those who were not expecting to get a workout from the title did, in fact, reveal that they had. In turn, this unexpected result had them coming back for more on a more regular basis.

Beat Saber

Somewhat of a viral sensation, Beat Saber has burst onto the scene as of May 2018 in terms of offering an extremely unique and interactive virtual reality experience that is also rewarding in the context of fitness. Available again on PlayStation 4 VR as well as Microsoft Windows, the title once again utilizes music for its entertainment factor, but in a different way. Manipulating what appear to be Star Wars-esque lightsaber knock-offs in-game, players play their way through a song by slicing through colored pegs that correspond to the two different colors of blades that they have. However, these pegs are placed in different locations at intervals that are intended to fit with the beat of the song, creating a bit more of a challenge for players. Critically acclaimed from game reviewers, those who have streamed or recorded gameplay of Beat Saber such as YouTubers can attest to the physicality of trying to achieve a perfect score on any given song.

Fitness Boxing

Most recent to the bunch, Fitness Boxing for the Nintendo Switch was released in January and already shows signs of being the hybrid console’s first killer app based entirely around fitness. Surely taking some inspiration from Nintendo’s previous smash hits of Wii Fit and Wii Sports, the title revolves around the use of motion control with the system’s two small controllers. With these, users participate in numerous regiments involving boxing-based workouts with the goal of shaving off both BMI and calories — which are also tracked in-game. Finally, taking a page out from a couple of the other titles, popular music tracks are also available to help pump up any workout.

ARMS

Rounding out the list is one of Nintendo’s most marketed titles since the Switch was initially revealed, ARMS. Simple title aside, the game once again makes use of the console’s built-in motion controls for boxing type movement — but adds a fresh twist to the sport. With a roster of 15 colorful characters to choose from, players take to multiple specialized arenas to go one-on-one, moving around the field of play and punching each other with a variety of extendable arms. There are well over 30 customization options available, leading to interesting match-up potential, and players themselves have the capability of both combining and curving punches, as well as blocking them, simply through physical mannerisms. By the end of each intense match, it is almost guaranteed that players will be feeling the burn and working up a sweat.