Dr. Paul Ballas, an adult and child psychiatrist who lives in Blue Bell, PA, has always been an avid gamer, so it seemed like a natural extension for him to search for a fitness solution in the world of video games. Using Xbox Fitness, he has crafted a unique fitness strategy that has helped him lose 60 lbs over 10 months, and ever the scientist, he has documented his findings in his book, A Doctor's Guide to Xbox Fitness which includes over 40 Xbox Fitness workouts based on over 100 hours of testing.
He decided to embark on this personal project after he tested the Xbox Kinect for his company, Tiro Enterprises LLC where he rate games for physical intensity. When it comes to his findings, Ballas cautions that before anyone embarks on a new fitness routine they should talk to their physician to make sure that it is safe for them to work out.
"I had already tested 50 games before the Xbox Kinect came out in November of 2013," he said.
When he saw all the fitness programs for the Xbox, he decided to test how effective they were through his own personal weight-loss journey. He started exercising solely with Xbox Fitness in February and by April it had become a habit.
"I was using it every day and if I couldn't one day I would get frustrated," he said.
A personal weight-loss journey
Ballas has always struggled with his weight, never seeming able to find a fitness plan that worked best for his busy schedule. He says that the lowest weight he's ever been was in 2003 when he was single, and living in Cleveland. Pre-marriage and kids, he was working and then going to the gym for 1 ½ hours every day. Now with a wife and two small children, finding time to work out is a lot more difficult.
"Fitness experts tell you to sew exercise into your daily life – park your car farther away or walk around your office building at lunchtime for example, – but maintaining willpower to add these moments throughout the day is difficult," he explained. "By playing Xbox Fitness I only need willpower once a day and then for only five minutes because by then you are lost in the game and having fun."
"Part of my earlier failures to maintain weight loss was that although I knew the importance of high intensity in a workout, I let it get drowned out by other concerns like when was the right time to work out," he said. "Although we are often warned not to exercise right before going to bed, I have found that in order to make it a habit, you need to choose a part of the day where you will least likely be interrupted."
For Ballas that means to exercise at night after everyone else is in bed. He discovered that by using Xbox Fitness, he could get a high intensity work out on his own time schedule.
"Personally my sleep got better – deeper. Now I feel more refreshed in the morning," he added.
Another benefit of using Xbox Fitness to work out he found was that it took less time out of his day then if he went to the gym.
"If you think about it, in order to exercise for a half hour at the gym, you actually take up 1 ½ hours total with the driving and time in the locker room and setting up the equipment. With playing Xbox Fitness in your home, you have a very short commute. It is a very fast and efficient way to work out. With the Kinect sensor it has amazing voice recognition allowing you to turn the system on and start the program within minutes," he said.
High intensity work outs
Ballas was particularly surprised by how high intensity a work out the games gave him. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the recommended exercise for adults is at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Initially, he set 1 hour of exercise a day as his beginning benchmark because he also knew from the findings of The National Weight Control Registry, which investigated the factors that led to long-term successful weight-loss maintenance, that 90% of those who were successful exercised about an hour a day. Quickly however, he discovered that with Xbox Fitness he could exercise for shorter amounts of time and still see the same effects.
Making exercise a habit
Another key part of maintaining weight loss is making exercise a daily habit. As a psychiatrist, Ballas was very interested in the habit-making process. He was inspired by the model Charles Duhigg talks about in his book,The Power of Habit that uses a cycle of cue, routine and reward. "My cue to exercise was when everyone was asleep, my normal routine for the time used to be to relax or make my lunch for the next day so I changed that to exercise, and then my reward was the playing of the game itself."
For true success, the exercise needed to be fun enough to make it a habit. As a lifelong gamer, his most favorite games were more sedentary, but as he played more fitness-related games that allow you to train with fitness celebrities like Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson and Tony Horton, he grew to enjoy them more, especially the competitiveness of the games.
"The Kinect sensor has voice, vision and motion technology which can record your movements during the game for points. You get points for how accurate and vigorously you do the moves. Although you are just competing against yourself, you add up points for each game and combine them all together for overall ranking," he explained.
"I found myself caring more about the points than getting fit, which was a good thing," he said. Ballas is ranked seventh in the world in True Achievements.
So if you are still looking for that perfect gift for a fitness-minded loved one then you might want to consider the Xbox One with Kinect sensor. Fitness-related games come free with the system.
Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.