In June of 2009 I had the opportunity to review the original EA Sports Active game for the Wii. I was very impressed with it as an exercise tool/personal trainer and really enjoyed using it due to the variety of exercises and muscle groups used and the engaging and fun way it was presented.
Then I lost the disk.
Yeah-I know. I felt like a dope and STILL haven’t found it.
So when Walmart and EA gave me the opportunity to review the brand new EA Sports Active 2 (with heart rate monitor) I jumped at it!
It is a “video game” that is really a personal trainer. It is available in formats for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 w/Kinect.
When you get the program and open it up here is what you find in the box:
The heartrate monitor goes on your arm, just below your elbow. See how the little pictogram has a heart on it (so you can tell which one it is) then a little person with an arrow showing you where it goes? Easy peasy! You do have to have direct contact with your skin-so wear a short sleeved shirt. It has a single AA battery in it. Once you have it on and the program started you just hit the little button, the blue lights come on and you are good to go. When you are done just set it aside-it will turn itself off.
If this sounds complicated and you are worrying, don’t! The first time each new person (ie “profile”) uses the program it gives you a tutorial on exactly how and where to place the monitors so they are picked up correctly by the system.
These wireless peripherals are something that the original EA Sports Active did not have-I really like that you can see your heart rate on the screen while you are exercising (along with a little “zone” chart”-which it figures based on your height, weight & age) and that you get a cool heart rate chart at the end of the session.
The next piece replaces the leg strap and pocket for the nunchuck that the original EA Sports Active used:
The motion sensor is, to me, a big improvement. You put it on at the beginning of the session just above your right knee either over your clothing or directly on your leg depending on what you are wearing. Again-there is a helpful pictogram and tutorial on the system showing you exactly where to put it. Once the monitor is placed you simply leave it there for the entire workout. No more worrying about the nunchuck, putting it in and out of the little pocket on the leg strap, tangling up the cord etc. The leg strap is plenty wide-I think even someone who is carrying extra weight would be able to comfortably fit it around their leg. There also is sort of rubbery non slip stuff on the strap, so it stays in place well.
I’m using the picture off the box for this because once you plug the thing into the back of the Wii you just leave it there. . . and I didn’t feel like digging around & disconnecting mine 🙂 The USB receiver is what picks up the signal from the Heartrate Monitor and the Motion Sensor. You just plug it into one of the USB ports on the back of your Wii. I’m not sure how it works for the PS3 or the Xbox.
Also included are the program dish-which you just put in your Wii like any other program, and the exercise band with handles-which is really just a long stretchy rubber bandy thing that you use for resistance in certain exercises.
How to “play”
When you enter the game for the first time you will be prompted to set up a profile. It will ask you a bunch of questions-your age, height, weight, etc. It will give you choices-do you prefer the Male or Female trainer character. You will get to design your avatar-which is the way “you” look on screen (this is my kids favorite thing-the amount of time they will spend picking out details is crazy).
Then you will get to choose if you want to use one of the preset fitness programs. I chose to do the 9 week exercise program at an intermediate level (don’t worry-you can change your level etc later). You can also create your own unique workouts, but I like the fact that the 9 week program has been designed by fitness experts to target different areas of the body on different days so that you get a full workout without doing too much of one thing.
(note: I do create profiles for the kids, and make specially tailored programs for them that run only a couple of minutes and just have the “fun” stuff they want to do)
The workouts themselves vary in length-but most of them run between 30-45 minutes. You have the option before the preset workout starts to look at a list of all the exercises included, and to deselect some (which might be useful if you have a specific injury or disability that you are working around).
The workout starts with a few warm ups, then move on to the workout and finish with stretches.
Each new exercise is introduced with a screen that says the name of the exercise, has a pictogram that shows if the Wii remote or the exercise bands are needed, and tell you how far you are along in the workout (35/39 exercises remaining). If your profile has never done the exercise before, the Wii goes into a little video tutorial of how to correctly do the exercise (which you can skip). If you have done the exercise before it skips it-but you can always press the (-) on the remote to see the tutorial at any time.
While you are doing the exercise the “trainer” does them along with you, using the correct form, and gives you feedback. Some of it is little cheesy encouragement “You are doing great” “You are at the maxium pace for this exercise!” . . . but they also have on screen advice on how to improve your form “make sure you pause at the top of the rep”. You do have to do the exercise the right way or the Wii has a hard time “seeing” it.
Each exercise is done for a short amount of time-many times just for 2 or 3 minutes, and then you are off to the next thing. You might do those tricep curls with the resistance band at a couple of different times in the workout though. And you might do the same exercise hidden in other exercises several times-such as doing a lunge as a plain old lunge, but then also doing lunges as part of the “soccer goal” exercise.
I really like the variety in the exercises. Although there are plenty of exercises that are your basic calisthenics there are also a bunch of sports themed exercises that are more like playing a game. A good example of this is the “mountain biking” exercise.
In the “Mountain Biking” exercise your little on screen person is riding a mountain bike through the, well, mountains. You are on a trail with other bikers and the scenery, sounds and such change as you go along. When you are on the flat stretches or the downhill portions you have to do a sustained squat to make your bike move onscreen. Don’t worry-they tell you to squat and show a down arrow. If you don’t go down far enough it will let you know. Then there are “jumps” in the course-for those you have to spring up from your squat and land back down into it. Your little biker dude (or dudette) does spiffy bike jump tricks when you jump. When you hit any uphill sections you come up out of your squat and jog in place-if you don’t, your biker stops!
Here is a quick video (2min) that shows someone selecting their workout, deselecting everything except one warmup and the mountain bike, and then doing the warmup & mountain bike. . . so you can see what I’m talking about (Note: it’s in German, but that doesn’t really keep you from seeing what is going on)
Although by the end of this 4 minutes or so of exercise my thighs are BURNING. . . I find the mountain bike scenario engaging. It makes the time go by much faster than if I was just doing squats, jumps & jogging in place-even though that’s really what I’m doing.
When your workout is complete, the system gives you a workout summary.
Then it runs through a bunch of screens that show you charts on how many calories you burned, what your heart rate was and things like that. You can go into your profile and fill out a lifestyle journal every time as well (a bunch of questions on things like food habits from the previous day, rest etc) and get tips on which areas you need to improve in.
Throughout your various workouts you will also accumulate trophies-they just pop up when you’ve done certain things-like completed your first workout, or sunk 100 baskets or other things. It’s sort of fun to see those pop up. Buddy gets really excited when I win a new one of those.
So here is my official opinion:
1. Easy to use. With all the on screen help available even someone non techno savvy can figure out how to get it set up and get going. All of the exercises are described fully with easy to follow tutorials that show the trainer doing them.
2. Fun and engaging. The variety of exercises and workouts can keep you from getting bored.
3. Quick. The workouts keep you going the whole time-but you don’t have to allocate hours each day to do them.
4. Private. Sometimes you really don’t want everyone at the gym seeing you being all sweaty and uncoordinated. You get to use the EA Sport Active 2 in the privacy of your own home.
5. It’s right there. You don’t have to make time in your day to drive to the gym, get changed, drive back. You don’t even need to arrange child care. You just pop on your TV & exercise without having to go anywhere.
1. It is still up to you to get motivated. Like any other exercise or equipment, you still have to make time and take the effort to do it.
2. This workout is not easily adaptable for someone who has any type of injury. If you have bad knees or a bad shoulder this workout is not likely to be for you.
3. You need to be careful when doing lunges that you don’t stress your knees-there is a right & a wrong way.
4. Obviously, you need to have a gaming system. Those can be expensive, and I wouldn’t go out and buy one simply to use the program. Although one might argue that it is still less expensive than a gym membership.
5. The monitors can be a bit finicky. For some reason it doesn’t like to register my arm movements when I do the tricep kickbacks. It’s annoying to be doing rep after rep and not have your person on screen move and to have the trainer keep telling you to try harder. Grrrr. I eventually wound up hitting the (+) key to get the menu and then skipped the exercise-even though I had already done more than the 10 required reps in actuality. I’m going to try using a new battery in the monitor and see if that helps. If not I’ll be calling the customer support to see if there are any other fixes or if I need a new heartrate/motion monitor.
I really like the system and will continue to use it for exercise. I recommend it to anyone in good health who has their doctor’s permission to start a strenuous exercise program.
Now that I’ve told you all my thoughts on the EA Sports Active 2 you can see it in action with the official trailer. This shows you some good shots of both people doing the exercises and what the program looks like on your TV, as well as some explanation from a trainer. It runs 2:52 minutes.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored review I am participating in with the Walmart Moms. Walmart has provided me with the product for this post. My participation is voluntary and opinions, as always are my own.