I love exercising. I love the feeling of working out, of exercising muscles I don’t normally use while sitting at my desk most of the day. In a perfect world, I would love to have a full body fitness regimen I could maintain with perfect regularity. However, just the idea of coming up with a basic routine is exhausting for me, let alone acting on it.
I have bilateral club foot. The short of it is that my ankles barely move if at all and I can’t do high-impact activities. So running? Out of the question. Group fitness classes? Exhausting to work out with the teacher. Self guided fitness? I always feel like I’m doing something wrong because I lack flexibility and stability to do some exercises the “right” way. I rather gave up on the whole endeavor after a while, barring suddenly winning the lottery to go get a personal trainer.
Oddly enough, Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is making an exercise routine entirely doable for me again. Go figure.
What is Ring Fit Adventure?
The Ring Fit Adventure game is a weird hybrid of an RPG and a fitness game designed for the Nintendo Switch. One Joy Con is attached to a flexible ring, while the other is strapped to your leg. Between the two, the Switch has decently good motion controls you use to complete exercises and navigate the board. When facing monsters, you are presented with a small arsenal of unlocked exercises to choose from. Complete repetitions and you do damage to the monsters. As you gain levels, you unlock more exercises to swap into your active rotation for battles. Tougher exercises do more damage. Different monsters are weak to different types of attacks. It’s a pretty standard RPG.
I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, but my roommate Neph owns one. For a few weeks I watched Neph use the Ring Fit game every morning and was intrigued by it. I wanted to know three things before beginning, though:
- What are the exercises like?
- How adaptable is this game to someone with a physical limitation?
- Does it actually work?
After getting a look at the different sorts of exercises and Neph’s stamp of approval that it was giving results, I still hesitated over the second question. There was promise of adaptability, but I wasn’t going to know for sure unless I tried it. So, about a week ago, I picked up the Joy Cons and gave the game a go.
Settings and Getting into Things
The first day of “play” with this game was all about finding what settings worked best for me. At first, I tried playing the game with no adaptive features, but the rapid jogging in place started immediately killing me. Fortunately, Ring Fit Adventure has a bunch of adaptive modes to help let anyone exercise using it. With Neph’s help, I turned on “knee assist” and resumed gameplay.
With knee assist, the game suddenly feels a little… cheesy. The most notable element is it makes movement an “Auto Run” so I don’t have to jog in place. This means some sections are just me standing around waiting to reach the next item, monster, or obstacle. I’m missing out on some of the aerobic elements of the game and leg exercises. Furthermore, the only leg exercise available at the start of the game is squats which, unfortunately, doesn’t do well with my range of motion, so I was limited to upper body exercises. The first few days of gameplay were mostly arm and core exercises, which was helpful but not the full body exercise I was hoping for.
In an effort to supplement the game’s variety of exercises, I decided to design a custom workout, another game mode within Ring Fit Adventure. I picked a variety of exercises targeting areas I felt left out from my arsenal in the game so far. This was such a rewarding day, if only because I ended the session feeling like I’d really gotten a full workout for the first time so far.
Results and Going Forward
The day I noticed I’m actually making progress was the day after I decided I needed a rest day to recover a bit. Jumping back into thing I noticed I actually feel… looser. My shoulders and back are actually feeling better equipped to take on the exercises I wanted to do. Years of slumping over my keyboard have tied my back up in inflexible knots, but it feels like this game is undoing some of that. I can also feel myself settling into exercise positions more easily. The “warrior pose” yoga move, for example, was very rough the first few days, but now I can jump into it much more easily. It’s interesting to see the progress I’m making with it.
So far I would call this game a success for me. I’ve kept up with the exercising and I am planning on continuing. Having seen some of what is ahead I am a tiny bit concerned about adventure mode when it forces me into some leg-based exercises for monster fights, but I won’t know if it will adapt for me until I get there. We’ll see how things go.