The Aussies know a thing or two about fun, Brett Young from ExergamingAustralia explains "Play" for adults.

PLAY. This is certainly not a word that requires further explanation, at least it shouldn’t be! I personally think PLAY has become something of a 4 letter word, at least for adults. Us ‘grown ups’ would not normally associate play with an adult activity, children play and adults, well what do adults do? We hardly promote “I’m off to the gym to play” or “I’m off to play in my mixed martial arts class” nope we ‘workout’. Even our play is a derivative of work. Do we actually just play anymore, indeed, was there ever a time when adults we were allowed to play, without judgment?

So, in the context of play we ‘exercise’. Adults go the gym and ‘lift’ weights, ‘do’ aerobics classes, ‘have’ a fitness boxing sessions or ‘get’ yelled at in boot camp or personal training sessions. But wait you say, adults do ‘play sport’, they ‘play cards’ they ‘play with their kids’ and yes you’re right, in the context of an associated activity we play, as that makes playing legitimate and gives the activity credence and acceptability…but, I would argue that adults do not simply play. Or do we? There is one obvious activity where adults are allowed to play and that’s with PC, video or board games so we do ‘play games’. FYI: The average age of a gamer in Australia is 30! Not 3, 12 or 18 but 30…well and truly adult status. So adults can play games, interesting.

Well now, a breakthrough. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could re-engineer those games to maintain the fun and entertainment aspects AND make them as energetic as real play. Wouldn’t it be great if there were adult technology games that we play, that make us fitter and healthier? Well, we do and would you believe that this genre has been developing since 1982! It began with an Amiga game that used a peripheral amazingly similar to the Nintendo Wii Fit Balance Board. This new entertainment fitness game genre was called Exergaming, and boy has it come on leaps and strides since 1982.

It’s perhaps only over the last decade that the technology for exergaming has become truly feasible. Many of the technological advances in miniaturization, reduction in manufacturing costs, lightweight materials etc, has made domestic exergaming products affordable and family friendly. I suppose this is most readily demonstrated by the wireless motion-sensing platform of the Nintendo Wii. So exergaming has truly come of age, and this is just the beginning!

To borrow a line from Ironman 2, “ will make anything possible..”, that is certainly debatable, but it is true that it has made exergaming possible and lately, highly effective. PLAY on the other hand costs nothing, requires nothing except imagination, perhaps a stick, and a rock. PLAY is the polar opposite of technology, so you would think mixing the two would produce nothing but a malfunctioning malady, in reality it has produced a past time that makes it okay for adults to play, it makes play credible and still fun. At Exergaming Australia, we use the essence of this morphing of technology and play in our motto – ‘Serious Fun’.

So, what’s wrong with fitness today. Well for a start, it certainly isn’t play. It’s a ‘serious’ minded activity. Fitness and exercise have become billion dollar industries where ‘fun’ and ‘Play’ have no role to play, so to speak. Fitness has become very serious business, very complicated and very expensive with a lot of companies and individuals becoming celebrities simply because they yell louder and have considerably larger biceps than we mere mortals have. But I wonder how many people think this kind of combative fitness is actually fun? We’ve become accustomed to militant combat or mixed martial arts classes or fitness boxing, and there is certainly no doubting the effectiveness of these methods, they work very well, but they are not for everyone, around 85% of us in fact! Perhaps we should all join the armed forces and be forced to get fit, at least then we could get paid to improve our fitness, as it stands now WE are paying the armed forces to get us fit!

My point is, fitness and exercise, constructed around activities that supposably motivate us due to yelling and screaming ex-military personnel, is not play it’s not entertainment and it’s certainly not fun. It is effective however, no denying that, but it is NOT fun!

Think about when we were kids, when we simply played because it was fun. We never thought about the fitness benefits as we bounded about playgrounds or slogged cricket balls over the back fence. We had boundless energy because we were kids, we were having fun and we did it day after day as a result. Our parents would have been grateful to see us playing as we were entertaining ourselves and out from under their feet, but I bet they never thought, “great, Brett is really improving his aerobic fitness with those short burst between the wickets in cricket”. Nevertheless, play is just for children isn’t it? Adults must do adult things like workout and workup a sweat and just work. Well, I beg to differ!

Again, Exergaming turns modern concepts of exercise on its head. We return to the notion of Play and Fun. If we are truly enjoying what we are doing, we’ll keep doing it willingly, will-power won’t enter into it, we will no longer have to gee ourselves up, torment ourselves with guilt so as to motivate ourselves back to the gym. Exergaming is intrinsically self-motivating as it is entertaining, fun AND physically beneficial – win, win and win. So what is it about exergaming that separates it from normal fitness and exercise activites?

1. I know I’ve mentioned it ’several’ times already, but I must emphasize the fun factor. Exergaming takes the best entertainment technologies available (in games, movies, music and software) and then makes those activities physically challenging. It also requires that the best exergames are fun first and fitness second. That certainly doesn’t mean fitness is ‘secondary’, quite the opposite, it actually means fitness can be inherently fun, thus sustainable like when we played as kids, day after day, year after year.

2. Exergaming is born from computer & console gaming it therefore inherits some of the most powerful and engaging aspects of gaming, namely:

a. Mutliplayer – you can play cooperatively or competitively with your friends, family and mates.
b. Online Multiplayer – as above but you can do so against or with people all round the world 24/7.

3. Results ‘NOW’ – Fitness activities, especially those requiring us to lose weight or simply get fitter can make progress seem excruciatingly slow and tedious, which makes it extremely difficult to stay motivated. Exergaming often has very detailed feedback data, which is tremendously valuable in tracking your progress instantly. Exergaming can tell you your game score, the accuracy of your movements, the power of your blows, the timing of your steps, the speed of your punches, the quality of your cognition and much much more. This gives you direct and immediate feedback on your progress and is tremendously motivating. You use that recorded data as a motivation to improve your previous scores, or to beat a family members score or perhaps even someone who has left their score on a social network site that you visit. Trying to improve your results requires you to be fitter, stronger, more agile more focused more rhythmical and be better at playing the game.

4. Exergaming is geared up for Social Networking. Exergaming is a natural fit for sharing your results, swapping stories and sharing strategies online and in group forums and chat applications like Facebook. Gamers have been sharing statistics online since the internet began and have created vast online communities who support their past times actively and vigorously.

Thanks to Gamercize for the use of the playful picture

5. Exergaming is incredibly accessible – The best Exergames allow people of any physical ability and age to participate together, in the same class at the same time and even compete against each other equally! This flexibility is intrinsic in Exergaming and allows people of any generation to share an activity in synchronicity. This makes Exergaming wonderfully accessible to everyone, everywhere and again enhances the socializing affects of adult playtime, what normal fitness methods call ‘fitness and exercise activities’.

Take your pick, would you prefer to have fun first and get a fantastic fitness benefit from your playtime or make that concerted effort to motivate yourself to the gym and the cardio machine factory that waits in steely silence? My choice is clear: Playtime – GAME ON!