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The Gamercize Family Fit bike is a new idea to help gamers get fit while they play. It's designed to appeal to non-gamers and hard gamers alike.
The machine functions as a rowing machine, recumbent cycle and video game fitness machine. As a personal trainer, fitness instructor and long time gamer I'm keen to put it through its paces. To live up the claim it's making, it will need to work well for both gamers and fitness users.
In the world of video game fitness there are many offerings that are based on workout challenges, so many I often get asked for advice on how to choose one. Your new fitness game will probably sit alongside that copy of Mario Kart. Likewise, your fitness games console sits next to an HD gaming powerhouse by Microsoft or Sony.
Here lies the intrinsic problem with workout titles such as Wii-Fit or Jillian Michael's Fitness Ultimatum - you have to choose fitness over gaming. You have to resist Blur or Arkham Asylum in favour of the workout game. If you're a gamer like me, you'll want a bit more game play out of your Exergaming and the workout game takes second place.
I was initially impressed with the Gamercize Family Fit. It looks good, has an impressive instrument panel and feels well built. You won't feel silly or self conscious, which is a criticism I have heard a few times with a few other systems.
Feeling comfortable is a big part of any fitness experience and determines retention of a user within a fitness regime. This new exercise machine wouldn't look out of place amongst other next gen peripherals.
My test is on the Xbox 360 version, which is the console I have set up at home. The manufacturer claims the Gamercize Family Fit is a 3 in 1 fitness machine with static rowing, cycling and interactive cycling, so I checked out all three modes. The first of these under test is the interactive element.
Connecting the Gamercize Family Fit to your console is simplicity.
Connecting the Gamercize Family Fit to your console is simplicity, with a USB lead plugging directly into the front (or back) of your 360. The second thing is to plug in the supplied game pad. All set-up and the Exergaming is simplicity itself - Keep moving to keep playing. A pause in your motion equals a pause in the game. I have been a fan of this interaction since the first Gamercize Power Stepper for PS2 and this new machine doesn't disappoint for the next generation console.
The value in Gamercize is the ability to play any game. It's a useful interaction if exercise is not your thing. As you play, you simply forget you are exercising.
The cycling action is smooth throughout the 8 resistance settings and while not up to commercial gym equipment standards, it is the closest I have seen. The position of the pedals is comfortable and so is the seat with its ample padding.
I started exercising with the game that I have borrowed - Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. I am a great fan of the first person experiences and using the Gamercize Family Fit while playing didn't detract anything from the enjoyment. The first couple of times I was concentrating on the game and inadvertently slowed my cycling down and the game paused, but restarting exercise kept me in the game. It doesn't take long to get the hang of doing two things at once and soon time way slipping by as I progressed though the scenarios while all the time clocking up my calorie burn.
The gaming experience is sound, but for members of the family that don't get distraction from exercise by gaming the machine can be used stand alone in both cycling and rowing . While cycling the on-board computer provides you with the usual speed, distance and pulse rate functions but there is a new feature that must be mentioned, the fitness test. After you have been in your target heart rate, take off some resistance, press the Recovery button on the on-board computer and cool down. Over the next 60 seconds the Gamercize Family Fit monitors you heart rate recovery and gives you a fitness score of between 1 and 6.
To really get your fitness improved, unlatch the seat and flick the on-board computer to rowing mode.
To really get your fitness improved, unlatch the seat and flick the on-board computer to rowing mode. The position for the rower is a little different from a regular rowing machine, as the footplates are slightly lower than normal. Despite feeling slightly odd it reduces the amount of bend in your back and coupled with support from the seat back, it is a very safe rowing machine in its own right.
In rowing mode the resistance, for me, needed to be increased a couple of clicks and the pulling action was smooth and consistent. With a regular rowing machine there's more resistance when fully extended which then lessens as you pull back. But here I was pleased to find the resistance is equal throughout the stroke. Despite feeling, again, a little odd compared to a gym rower it does promote a safe use and reduce the chance of injury. I would highly recommend the Gamer Family Fit for its innovative rower alone.
Overall the Gamercize Family Fit did pretty well against its high claims - being a serious fitness machine, providing upper and lower body workouts, and contains many innovative features missing on non-interactive exercise machines. Looping in gaming is simply the best way to hide the effort of exercise and certainly sustainable considering it works with all your games, even the ones yet to be released. For around GBP 699 the Gamercize Family Fit machine is by no means cheap, but for a family or club is worth the outlay.
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