ExerBeat – a Great Game for this Disabled Person

The other day I grabbed a video game that was on sale on Amazon for fifteen dollars. It's an exercise game for the Wii called ExerBeat and it was so cheap compared to other Wii games I've gotten that I went ahead and bought it without knowing anything about it. I figured worst case I could sell it or give it away. I've been using it for two weeks and it's been amazingly good for me.

I have a chronic illness as a result of having meningitis several years ago. This illness mimics a brain tumor and has all sorts of symptoms, including panic attacks, which are extremely annoying. Things like going to get my routine blood tests can make me very nervous and I end up hyperventilating and sometimes throwing up and fainting. Obviously this isn't much fun, so as you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the yoga/Pilates exercises in ExerBeat banish my personal brand of anxiety. I'm not sure how it works, maybe by releasing tension stored in my chest and back, but if I start to feel bad before I have to do something nervous making all I have to do is five minutes of these exercises and I'm golden. I can't stress enough how great this is.

ExerBeat doesn’t have the greatest graphics in the world and the animation is a little creepy. The personal trainers' movements aren't quite right, but after playing the game for a bit this creep factor fades away. One thing ExerBeat does really well is motivate. The trainers are quite enthusiastic, which is nice when I'm trying to learn something new and feeling like a clumsy screw-up. Also it's nice to have someone acknowledge that fitting in a workout every single day for fourteen days in a row is hard. The trainers are augmented by a bouncing and bouncy musical note that I was afraid was going to be incredibly annoying like the paperclip in Microsoft Word. Instead I find its perkiness tolerable and enjoy its compliments.

After I finish each exercise I get a score, which depends on how well I matched my trainer's movements, which is multiplied by a number of factors and then converted into miles, which count towards a trip around the world. As we go, the musical note tells me little facts about each location, such as how the okapi got its name. Hitting key points on the map also unlocks new exercises. Before I bought the game I saw a complaint that said it's annoying and takes too much time and all of the exercises should be accessible from day one. I happen to disagree.

I used to work for a physical therapy office and we saw many, many patients who were injured when trying to start a new exercise program. Statistics at the time were that sixty percent of people trying to get fit dropped out of their programs in the first six weeks because of injury. We also saw plenty of people who went from doing nothing to working out for hours on the first sunny day of the year and ended up in agony. By starting the gamer on small, short exercises ExerBeat can help prevent overexertion and injury.

The exercises are broken down in different categories; Dance Exercises, Martial Arts, Body Conditioning, Party Fitness and My Exercises. Dance exercises is essentially aerobics with lots of moving to music along with arm movements that work the arms, chest and back. Martial arts are karate and boxing, which can build up both strength and cardiovascular. Body conditioning is yoga, Pilates and stretching. Party fitness exercises are basically mini games and include swimming, pirate attack, pizza making, dancing and punching through a succession of walls. I really like to swim, which I'm terrible at, often clocking in at say a three percent accuracy rate, followed by battering my way through three walls then finishing with the beginner pizza toss, which loosens up all the muscles in my back and leaves me feeling mellow and relaxed. It's happy fun times for sure.

ExerBeat is terrific for me because I can push myself hard on days I'm feeling great and work out at a lower level on days when I'm in a lot of pain and feeling queasy. For many people with chronic illnesses movement can help with symptoms but it can be very hard to get up and go when everything hurts. It's nice to know that if I do a few minutes of stretching or pizza toss I'll feel better and I won't be so exhausted my whole day is shot. If you or someone you care about has mobility issues or has a chronic illness you might want to give this game a shot. Please let me know how it goes for you.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a little bit different. When you can't figure out what in the world to cook this website can be just the thing. http://www.cookthink.com/ You can type in or click the type of food you are craving, combination of ingredients, types of dishes or techniques, culinary styles or traditions, or things like moods, restrictions or textures. I tried entering mushrooms, spinach, salmon; clicked ingredients then search and got an interesting variety of dishes that ranged from roasted mushroom lasagna to mushroom leek noodle kugel to tarragon salmon kebabs. Give it a spin and try something new.