Since dropping out of soccer sometime around the eighth grade, exercise has always been my nemesis. People who would “wake up for a morning run” scared me. The concept of “exercising for fun,” sounded like the equivalent of saying “I really enjoy sticking my hands into pots of boiling water.” Why go on a run when I could turn on Netflix or sit down for a nice relaxing Skyrim session (or a less relaxing Bravely Default 2 session)? If someone had told me at the beginning of 2020 that I’d be exercising on the regular in 2021, I would have laughed in their face and asked them what they were smoking. Little did I realize that video games would be the cure for my hatred of physical exertion.
I realized eventually that pain wasn’t my biggest issue with exercising. Yes, I hated the feeling of being out of breath, of everything on my body feeling like Jell-O after any kind of workout, and the days of muscle pain that would come after. But I could deal with all of that if I felt like there was a reason to. And I’m not talking about seeing weight loss in several months from the start or being assured that I would have more energy a month later. That sounds great and all, but those reasons could not be motivators for me when they felt so removed. Similarly, creating my own goals to beat (“this time, I’ll run a full mile!”) wouldn’t do anything for me either, as my immediate follow-up thought was always, “yeah… but why?”
What I needed was motivation. I needed something immediately tangible where I could not only feel accomplished by doing it but would be motivated to push myself in the first place. And despite the bad rap video games get for promoting couchlock, they are actually what provided that motivation I needed, and they caused me to finally start exercising.
I’m not sure how I didn’t make the connection that video games would work miracles for my physical health sooner, considering games are designed to be rewarding. I started with Pokemon Go, which rewards the player for walking. You get eggs to hatch that are dependent on how much walking you do, so I found myself much more motivated to turn to my partner and say, “hey, let’s go on a walk today.” Even more so than that, there are various designations (such as the park close to my house that I’ll walk to and from frequently) that have more Pokemon, PokeStops, and Gyms, thus encouraging the player to get out of the house. This upped my chances of being active immensely.
But even more life-changing was my decision to purchase Ring Fit Adventure. While the walking in Pokemon Go was nice, it wasn’t quite enough to consider myself “physically active.” But Ring Fit Adventure is full of levels in which you must jog through them and squeeze or pull on the ring con to jump or attack obstacles in your way. And more than that, after a certain number of levels, you’ll progress to boss battles which require all sorts of physical exercises to defeat.
Having to make it until the end of a level to progress in the game or having to defeat a boss in battle pushed me to keep going. Considering I’ve loved video games for my entire life, my brain instantly jumped into video game mode, where quitting or giving up is not an option. And afterwards, I could not only look back at my progress and feel good about it, but I knew that next time I worked out, I’d be continuing my journey instead of doing the exact same thing all over again.
Video games, if taken advantage of correctly, can promote positive mental and physical health. If you’re anything like I was, and you’d rather bash your head into a wall than exercise, I’d highly recommend taking advantage of this little video game niche.
Next: Pokemon Go Adds Possible Contents Lists To Unhatched Eggs
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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