Cheerleading and Exergaming?

Rhythm games can be somewhat of an oxymoron in that they are more epileptic than rhythmic. Still, the point from a fitness perspective, is motion, preferably full-body with scaleable intensity. Now, being somewhat ‘feet challenged’ and always seeming to find the section of the dance mat that doesn’t have an arrow, I thought I’d experiment with ‘upper body’ driven rhythm games. Enter PS2 & ‘Eyetoy Groove’. I was in my element, finally! I began to relax into the rhythm much more effectively which made the game more fun and the fitness component more effective. What I hadn’t expected was the extent to which my entire body was utilized. Arm rotations and placements were a given, its the basis of the game, but my lower body had time to ‘freestyle’ as I wasn’t obligated to place my feet in any given ‘zone’. This raised my heart rate, again increased the fun factor and drove the game to an whole body, full motion experience!

In recent times, the Wii has released several rhythm based games centred around the sport of Cheerleading. The reviews seemed encouraging but of course the games are reviewed for the mainstream game user with only cursory reference  to the fitness component of the game. The games did seem to offer a workout component, due to the choreographed dance/aerobic/calisthenic nature of cheerleading, I just hoped, as I normally do, that the game didn’t get in the way of the fitness experience (I really do judge games from a very different perspective).

Step up Namco Bandai’s ‘We Cheer’. Obviously marketed to the youth-tween market, driven by Bratz type animations and storyline, and fair enough….but did it have the scaleable, cross-generational, age irrelevant and dual gender appeal? In short – a resounding YES! A youtube search for the We Cheer shows a multitude of ages, genders and skill levels plodding, pounding and bounding their way through the choreographed scenes. Have a look here at a random example of two guys (most videos show teen to early 20’s adult men!): Beng and Chris

The game is extremely scaleable offering no to low impact moves, rhythm enhanced with the predominance of movement in the upper extremeties. With an increasing skill base, the lower body is utilised more increasing the cardio effect commensurately. To increase intensity, it is a simple matter of applying weighted resistance (aerobic wrist and ankle weights).

The game requires concentration to play effectively but is inherently fun to play and even moreso as a spectator it seems 🙂 The multiplayer aspect allows up to 4 people to join in with the choreography. This raises the fun/motivation level accordingly and allows for scheduled ‘group/family’ fitness activity…another winner.

It is all too easy to dismiss games based on cursory or superficial analysis. Try this game, rent it if you can, and apply a fitness bent to its use. There are practice and workout modes within the game which are repeatable and fast loading. Put a sincere effort into utilizing your whole body and not just synchronising your upper body. Give it 30 minutes, and then tell me you havent broken a sweat! Just be careful you don’t unconsciously start humming ‘walking on sunshine’ and whooshing mini pom poms at family and friends at every opportunity.

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