Exercise on the Go With the Nintendo 3DS

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I was intrigued by the Activity Log features of the 3DS. This is a built-in piece of software that tracks the steps you take while carrying the device and then creates graphs of the day’s activities.

Using this during a work day made me realize how sedentary my daytime lifestyle was and got me thinking about introducing some more exercise into my weekly routine. I was talking this over with a friend who works at a local gym and ended up lending him the handheld to see how he might use it with his clients. Here’s what he made of the 3DS ($249.99 Amazon pre-order)…

Activity LogActivity Log

Activity Log

From a fitness and exercising point of view, Activity Log is actually very interesting. I’ve always advised my gym clients to use Wii’s calendar to keep track of their exercise gaming progress, but now they can do the same on the 3DS.

While the Wii’s calendar was limited to tracking the different games you were playing, the 3DS also tracks your walking around movement each day. The motion sensing part of the handheld means that you can pop it in your pocket when you go out and it will track your steps.

The Daily Records part of the software then provides a graph of how active you have been through the day. As I found when using Personal Trainer Walking on DS ($9.99 on Amazon) with my clients, having an immediate visual feedback of progress is a great motivation tool.

While Activity Log doesn’t offer the in-depth analysis of your movement that Personal Trainer Walking offers (mapping periods of inactivity and activity to different times of day), the principle is the same. All the clients I have tried it out with have come back for their next gym session surprised at the results. It seems that we all imagine we are much more active that we actually are, but all it takes is some hard exercise evidence to set us straight.

Battery life is a slight problem here as I can’t prescribe a client a full day’s step tracking with the 3DS — they will need to recharge it after a few hours. The handheld is also quite large (although no bigger than a DSi) to carry around while exercising. This is one of the benefits of Personal Trainer Walking having a separate pedometer that didn’t need as much juice.

After some tests it seems that with the Wireless comms turned off and the console in sleep mode you can track your steps for a day providing you don’t do too much gaming. Not ideal — but these sorts of compromises always exist when you are using games to help your fitness and exercise plans.

Another section of Activity Log, Daily Records, tracks your play time (just like the Wii calendar) so you can see how much time you have spent playing different games each day. But here you can also use the Software library to drill into different stats about your play habits.

Activity LogActivity Log

Activity Log

Software Library keeps track of each game you have played on the 3DS and then provides them in a book style catalogue for you to browse. In chart mode you can also look at which games you play most often, or which games you play for longest.

I’ve been using my 3DS mainly for playing favorite DS games at the moment and it’s been interesting to discover what my Total Time Played, Number of Plays and Average Playtime was for the different games I’ve been enjoying.

I plan to use this information during my initial consultation with clients. It provides valuable information to work out which exercise games they will get the most out of on other platforms — Wii, Kinect or Move. Their list of 3DS favorites is a good sign of how they like to spend their time. Any successful exercise routine needs to fit in with their existing lifestyle and preferences if they are going to have a chance of sticking to it in the long term.

I’ll be interested to see what exercise games are created for the 3DS. While there were a few I tried on the DS there were largely just instructional rather than incentivising the fitness routine with actual gameplay rewards.

The combination of portability, Augmented Reality games, motion sensors and cameras make the 3DS ripe for use by professional fitness coaches and the gaming public hoping to lose a few pounds. But to capitalize on this it needs a strong catalogue of first rate games that really understand how to combine the worlds of fitness/health with gameplay.

I’m impressed that Nintendo provides the Acitivty Log for free (along with Mii Maker, Mii Plaza and AR Games), but I hope this doesn’t stop third-party developers from taking these ideas forward and adding more depth.

[Header image: Nintendo.com]

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