Games, entertainment can make fitness fun

It is no secret that time passes much more quickly when fun and games are added to a workout regimen; however, finding a magic formula to introduce electronic games and fun distractions as inspiration to the world of fitness for both kids and adults has had its fits and starts in recent years. But this year may be a bit different for a couple of companies who were exhibiting at the Health & Fitness Business Expo...
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It is no secret that time passes much more quickly when fun and games are added to a workout regimen; however, finding a magic formula to introduce electronic games and fun distractions as inspiration to the world of fitness for both kids and adults has had its fits and starts in recent years.

But this year may be a bit different for a couple of companies who were exhibiting at the Health & Fitness Business Expo -- perhaps in part due to the increasing concern over childhood obesity, because other products have paved the way but hadn't discovered the right formula, or perhaps because a few products are finally making it simple to have fun or information and sweat all at the same time.

At this week's show, three products stood out to the SNEWS team as ones that looked as though they are simple enough and well-thought-out enough to be around for a few years (something very few other companies have been able to claim).

  • Cateye Fitness, distributed by Dallas, Texas-based Source Distributors, garnered a heap of buzz from show attendees, for its Interactive Game Bike that hooks up to a Playstation enabling riders to ride and race against another cyclist or the computer helping to make time fly while heart rate pumped. Company president Richard Kentopp apparently logged serious saddle time competing against any and all comers in head-to-head races on the company's bike -- he was on a bike every time we wandered by over the three-day show.

While the technology is not new (Cateye introduced a system last year that would allow a user to put any road or mountain bike onto a mount and race against others in a video game competition), this year marks the first self-contained, plug-and-play stationary bike that connects to a Sony Playstation and Playstation 2.

"This is what we intended from the beginning," Kentopp told SNEWS. "Cateye had a vision that cyclists would want to play this, but in truth, a cyclist doesn't want to race against a video game. And very few others actually want to have to go to the garage to get a bike out and roll it into the living room to play a game."

"The harder you make it for people to exercise, the less they will do," added Kentopp.

There is little doubt Cateye has huge potential. Consider that there are already 50 million PlayStations in existence, and it's not hard to imagine Kentopp pedaling gleefully to the bank just by selling his $350 bike to even a small percentage of that market.

SNEWS saddled up and raced another Cateye staff, and several minutes flew by before our editor realized he was sweating and breathing hard simply because he was having far too much fun to think about it.

  • Makoto (which roughly translates into "motion on the outside, stillness on the inside" in Japanese) offers an entirely different interactive experience, and one that is, unfortunately, too pricey for the ordinary home market, but could become a hot commodity in schools, community centers or clubs.

Participants stand in a triangular arena with three tall metal towers at each corner embedded with small light panels on three sides that face inward toward the user. A computer randomly triggers an Asian-sounding gong, which indicates the start of the game. The light panels on the three towers randomly light up, and the participant uses either a four-foot long baton or hands to touch or to hit each panel as it illuminates, forcing the person to tap into not only the visual light clue, but also auditory gong clues. The user must use peripheral vision and quick reactions and agility to spin and lunge to strike a light panel before the light goes off.

Owner Dave Shaw told SNEWS that what Makoto excels at is "improving the neurological connection between your mind and body, actually helping you to improve reaction times, concentration, depth perception, peripheral vision, and eye-hand coordination."

Shaw does sell to consumers, but the main focus of the company right now is on the institutional and commercial markets. Schools, hospitals and clubs are all candidates for a Makoto system, which retails for approximately $8,000 for a three-tower arena.

SNEWS editors played (really we did do a lot more than just play at this show, honest) against the computer and against each other, and quickly appreciated how the Makoto could and would assist us -- and any one else from kids to adults -- to improve physical and mental fitness at the same time.

  • Vision Fitness finally released a ready-for-prime-time version of its iNet TV, although attendees at the 2001 show may have seen a prototype there. This year's formal introduction gave the company time to fine-tune and improve the bikes and elliptical that are offered with the iNetTV. Of course, in the meantime, others in the industry attempted the classic Rip-off and Duplicate (R&D) effort, although none has yet successfully introduced and maintained a similar concept that integrates equipment with a "dumb" screen (all the ports are ready for whatever you want to hook up).

Simply, the iNetTV is a high-quality flat screen LCD TV display that is cable-TV ready and will easily connect to a DVD, VCR, or video game system or can be connected to the Internet. iNetTVs have now been added to two bikes and one elliptical to permit users to workout while watching TV, movies, surfing the Web, or playing video games.

While certainly a more passive form of mental inspiration than the first two, iNetTV still offers yet another way for folks to pass time more quickly while pumping up the sweat meter – a combination that should attract and keep more people on the workout bandwagon.

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