Featured story January 3, 2014
OLD: FITNESS GAMING
NEW: VIRTUAL-REALITY WORKOUTS
There’s a good reason why the much hyped home-gaming fitness revolution never took off: “Fitness” video games suck. Studies show that they burn only slightly more calories than playing conventional video games, which is less than taking a walk, says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., director of the Bariatric Medical Institute. In fact, research published in Pediatrics Digest showed that gamers burned a measly 91 calories per hour—not enough to have any significant impact on one’s physique or health. Freedhoff sees the future of fitness gaming heading toward augmented reality; one new approach, called the Omni, by Virtuix, is a virtual-reality device that allows you to play a video game more actively than ever before. About the size of a La-Z-Boy chair, its special 360-degree treadmill fits easily into a living room and syncs with your game, allowing you to live within it— whether you’re hunting down aliens, climbing a mountain, or following a virtual workout. You can run, jump, pivot, and crouch, and the sensors on the platform will interpret your movements through the accompanying pair of sneakers the Omni comes with. You can move through different landscapes, battlefields, and worlds, getting your heart rate up as effectively as you would in any body-weight or running workout. Or, if you just want to take an easy stroll (or scenic run), you can visit exotic cities you wouldn’t be able to afford to travel to in real life, or ancient ones you could only imagine up till now. The Omni will let you take a virtual, and startlingly realistic, tour through them. The Omni is due out in March 2014 and will retail for $500.
OLD: APPS THAT TRACK YOUR FOOD
NEW: APPS THAT TELL YOU WHAT FOODS TO EAT
Remember when you found out you could download an app that would tell you “exactly” how many calories were in your food? Yeah, that was in 2008—and it’s not cool anymore. Newer fitness apps are so advanced it may not be long before they chew your food for you. Fooducate ($5, fooducate. com) revolutionizes grocery shopping by placing the power of a nutritionist in the palm of your hand. Simply snap a picture of the UPC (bar code) on the food you want to buy, and the app will provide you with every bit of information on it you could ever want. Does this food contain gluten? Is it vegan friendly? Will it provide enough protein to be suitable for my diet? Fooducate does all the work for you. “The beauty is that the app shares the ingredients within the product,” says Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., owner of mohrresults.com, a nutrition consulting company. “Awareness about foods is certainly helpful, though too much can confuse a consumer. This app does a good job balancing both.” And if you want to find, say, the best brand of yogurt for your nutritional preferences, you can use the app to compare products and then build the ultimate shopping list for your next trip to the grocery store. But what if you’re eating out at a restaurant where you can’t see any bar codes? That’s where Meal Snap ($3, mealsnap .com) comes in. Like Instagram but with calorie counts, you take a picture of your food and it will immediately estimate (with impressive accuracy) what you’re about to put into your body. The app does have some limitations, though, as larger platters or foods with questionable serving sizes (such as beans) won’t always be recognized perfectly. But Meal Snap does provide a caloric range, so you’ll always know if your food choice is a giant mistake or in the ballpark.