- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

I tried Wii Fit. It was fun, but more of a game for children and hyperactive adults than a serious weight-loss program. I didn’t stick with it or lose a pound.

Then, I was excited to try boxing with Gold’s Gym Workout. It was just too repetitive.

Now, fitness fans get Active Personal Trainer (Electronic Arts, $59.99) and I think this one gets it right, or pretty close. This is a program I actually look forward to every day.

At the core of the program is the 30-Day Challenge, designed by personal trainer Bob Greene of Oprah Winfrey fame. The immediate superiority of this program to all other entrants in the exercise video game genre is quickly evident.

Exercisers — I won’t call them players because this is serious stuff — start by filling out their profile and setting up a journal page to keep track of progress. (It’s quite frightening how true-to-life you can make an on-screen avatar look.)

Once signed in, players choose a male or female trainer to help them. The 30-Day Challenge features a daily workout that consists of about 20 minutes of varied exercises that target upper and lower body, mixing cardio and sports exercises.

For those not familiar with the Wii, there are three peripheral components the exerciser uses. The Wiimote allows the user to navigate through the program and is the main controller. The Nunchuk tethers to the Wiimote and helps monitor body movements.

Players also can stand on the Wii balance board, a flat peripheral about three feet wide that can help determine core strength and movement and adds functionality to some exercises. (It is not necessary to have the balance board to completely use Active Personal Trainer.)

The trio all report back to the game to track how fast you are running, how high you are jumping and how deep you lunge.

Equipment included with the package includes a resistance band, used in bicep curls and row exercises, among others, and a leg strap. The leg strap, used when working on lower body exercises, is worn high on the right leg and has a sheathlike pocket the Nunchuk slips into.

Some exercises require holding the Wiimote in the right hand and the Nunchuk in the left to measure how high the arms are lifting in a bicep curl, for example. In other challenges, the Nunchuk slips inside the leg band to measure the movements made while running, walking or performing lunges.

Then the workout begins. The on-screen trainer is very helpful. If you are performing a motion wrong, he’ll stop and help you get it right in a way that is magically intuitive.

Getting started on a workout the first day involves performing a series of activities — walking/running, squats, bicep curls, rowing, boxing, in-line skating jumps and side-to-side lunges. The pace is quick and sweaty regardless of intensity level.

While working out, an on-screen monitor shows how many calories are burned and how far along in the workout you are, with progress being tracked in the journal.

The journal also contains trophy and medal awards for accomplishments along with advice based on responses to a nutritional and lifestyle survey.

The workout can be completely customized, with users choosing from a roster of 25 exercises, including dancing, tennis and volleyball. As the 30-Day Challenge continues, more exercises are added to the mix to change up the core muscle groups being targeted each day.

Change up the routine, go back to favorite exercises or create a program length by choosing from a wide variety of interactive activities that will help target and achieve personal fitness goals.

Adding value to the program, users also can visit the EA Sports Motivation Center (www. easportsactive.com) where they will find a library of articles on nutrition, fitness, self and spirit, and health.

“Diagnose Your Trouble Spots” is a useful feature that allows you to pinpoint five areas of the body to get exercises targeting those areas.

Helping to keep you motivated and part of the Wii Active social network, users also can join the Active Twitter feed and Facebook, allowing them to connect with others who are using the program.

Joseph Szadkowski’s Romper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to [email protected]

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