Wednesday, January 13, 2010

EA SPORTS Active Virtual Trainer as good as a qualified personal trainer?

--CORRECTIONS 01/13/10 - Thanks to Lisa Bruce - PR Manager, EA SPORTS--

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I’ve used W** Fit & EA SPORTS Active for a while and my students have been using it in class as well,  but I’ve always understood the mission of EA SPORTS Active as a supplement or a starter/primer/gateway to a more traditional exercise routine.  In our classes we use it as a reward for good behavior or mastering established in-class goals and objectives. However, the more I look at Nintendo’s advertising and in-game writing, I think they are sending out conflicting messages. 

Virtual Trainer Same (as Personal Trainer & Typical Gym Workout)

On the EA SPORTS Active website there is a video and text that says that the Virtual Trainer is just like a personal trainer:
Just like a personal trainer at the gym, EA SPORTS™ Active's Virtual Trainers help guide you through exercises one step at a time. Whether you need pointers on proper form or just some encouragement during your home workout, the Virtual Trainer keeps you on track and motivated. Exercise from home and stay fit with EA SPORTS™ Active on Nintendo Wii.

I do really like the group workout modes as you can do exercises together or ramp up the level a bit with competitions. The socialization factor has to be a big part to any exergame success as it has the transformative power to bring people together and to be done in multiple environments (home, school, community, online…).

Virtual Trainer NOT the Same #1 (as Personal Trainer & Typical Gym Workout)

I was recently interviewed by Ryan Smith of the Chicago RedEye (Chicago Tribune) for his piece Get digital: Are workout video games as good as the gym?  and told him that it’s important to distinguish between the game as gateway to a healthier lifestyle but not necessarily a “replacement” to a qualified personal trainer..
Fullscreen capture 1132010 101900 AM.bmpWhile exergames can be helpful in small doses, they are not meant to be replacements for professional trainers who can monitor fluctuations in an individual's body fat and heart rate and modify routines to make them more effective, according to exergame researcher Dr. Stephen Yang of the State University of New York-Cortland.
"They definitely aren't a magic pill to good fitness," Yang told RedEye. "I see these as gateway games. ... They can help you be confident enough to play a real sport or go to a gym."

Virtual Trainer NOT the Same #2 (as Personal Trainer & Typical Gym Workout)

Ryan also interviewed Bob Greene for the piece and Bob is quoted saying
We're also not recommending, "Hey, go ahead and throw away your gym membership." It's great for some, but it's really great if you supplement it with going to the gym.

Whatever their view of their “Virtual Trainer as a replacement”, they’ve had a great 8 month period with about 2.5 million units shipped worldwide (Via VGChartz). I think it’s a great product and you can tell how much work they put into the programming and refinements.  I think the natural evolution is to use a webcam (Your Shape or other) to be able to network online with a real trainer or class.  Currently Befitt and others have been doing online fitness sessions using Second Life and other technologies, but I don’t think anyone has been doing EA Active online with a webcam.  Is that true Kathryn? Do you know of any?
Note #1 – Isn’t it cool to be able to say that I was interviewed by a guy who also interviewed Bob Greene – that means I am only 2 degrees of separation from all the celebrities Bob has met and worked with…cool!
Note #2 – I just noticed the fine print from some of EA Active’s ads where it says in small font “Actual EA SPORTS Active users. Individuals remunerated”.  Is this a new practice or has EA always included this passage. I wonder if it has to do with the new FTC policies regarding disclosures. Any word from EA Active Twitter Trooper Kathryn ( would be greatly appreciated.   
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Note #3- Nintendo of America has provided a list of games they aren't shipping anymore. Get them while they last and don’t forget to search the bargain bins.  Always goodies to be found.
Battalion Wars 2
Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
Donkey Kong Barrel Blast
Endless Ocean
Excitebots: Trick Racing
Excite Truck
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Mario Strikers Charged
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime Trilogy
New Play Control! Pikmin
Wario Land: Shake It!
Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Wii Fit
Wii Music


  1. Definitely agree with your findings Stephen. I've played this game for research after EA SPORTS Active contacted me and asked me to review More Workouts and if I would be interested in talking with Bob Greene. I love the game, but how could it possibly be compared to having a live personal trainer? I asked Gerard Recio that when I interviewed him. I've also recorded tips on how to play the game for the best workout out the box.

  2. For busy working professionals like myself, digital fitness works apps such as UBQFIT are an ideal choice to workout and stay healthy. The app has expert trainers that bring the best workouts right to your home.


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