04/12/2012 10:44 EDT

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012: Test Drive


Each week, the Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.

Test Drive Subject: Kinect's Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 video game

Price: From $49.99

What It Is: This is the latest incarnation of Kinect's fitness video game that allows you to "appear" on-screen and exercise by following along with a huge variety of workouts. These include cardio sessions like hip hop classes and "running the world," as well as toning options for glutes, arms and legs. In all, there are more than 90 hours of workouts, and a personalized "objective" to help you determine how you want to use the game.

Putting It To Use: Part of the challenge of working out at home -- heck, of working out ever -- is getting off your butt and doing it, an obstacle made even harder when you're literally doing so on the same TV where Mad Men and Game Of Thrones are stored and waiting for you. So that's the first hurdle.

If you haven't yet used a Kinect, it can take a bit of time to get used to the future-like feeling of commanding the game with your own body, but once you do, it's easy to let your movements do the rest of the work. And after you get going, Your Shape does a pretty great job of putting you through the fitness wringer. There are games that mimic punching bricks (is there a better way to get out aggression?), balancing blocks while standing on one leg, learning how to kickbox ... really, anything you can find at the gym, with a healthy dose of technology thrown in for good measure.

Deciding on your objective helps the game figure out which workouts will be best for your goal, and how many times you should do them -- not to mention how many calories you're aiming to burn. To be honest, I stopped paying attention to the objective after my second go at the game, but those more inclined toward discipline might prefer having that chart in place.

There are also points to be earned, though much like the running score at the top of the Mario games, exactly what purpose they serve is unclear. Is it just to beat your previous score? Is it meant to have you connect to Xbox Live and see if you're better at jumping rope than your friends? All I know is, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of pride when I earned badges for noticeably stellar rounds.

Our Thoughts: Approaching the workout as a game is great in concept, but tougher to do when you find yourself yelling at the screen as the trainer "asks" you to do another 12 squats. And that's probably the game's greatest asset -- the feeling that you have a personal trainer motivating you to keep going. Yes, it is a computer-generated person who doesn't respond when you tell them you've had enough, but for many people, this push can be the difference between sitting on the couch and getting up and air boxing.

This game can work particularly well for people who, like me, know they should be getting more exercise, but can't quite find the time to get to the gym or go for a run. Frankly, if I even manage a 10-minute walk these days, I feel proud of myself. The quickie sessions -- they can be as short as two minutes -- give an option for working out, and even tracking progress, right at home, with the only effort required that of putting on running shoes and workout clothes.

So did I turn into a fitness warrior with Your Shape? Well, no, but I don't really think that was the point. I got myself moving, I occasionally pushed myself too far, thanks to the fun factor (one session stretched into the three hour range), and I felt good about adding healthier behaviours into my week. I'm hoping that will mean results in terms of weight loss and overall strength soon, but for the time being, I think it's a great way to introduce more exercise into my life.

The Warning: The motion activated technology is pretty freaking awesome, but there remain some flaws, so at times the instructor might say your positioning is off, when in fact you're flawless (and I swear, that's not just the ego talking). So be prepared for some frustration there.

As well, there's some questionable language in terms of fitness and nutrition. While the game does offer up tips between sessions like "stretch if you're feeling sore," it also says things like "blast away those nasty calories," which is a slightly misleading message considering, well, the necessity of taking in calories for health.

Tips: Get ready with a glass of water, a yoga mat and weights right at the beginning. The game doesn't give you a ton of warning when exercises that require the equipment are coming up, and the haughty "Where do you think you're going?" that comes from the screen when you disappear is not the most pleasant message to listen to.

And stretch. A lot. Some of the games are genuinely fun so it's easy to forget they're workouts, but much like the pain we all experienced upon trying Wii bowling for the first time, if you don't take the time to prepare your body beforehand, you will be hurting the next day.

Have a suggestion for a Test Drive? Tried something you loved or hated? Let us know on Twitter at @HuffPostCaLiv, or in the comments below.