Latest technology lets you jog along with zombies, bulls and
HealthDay Reporter Dennis Thompson
FRIDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) --
You're jogging at a steady pace, enjoying
your favorite music through your headphones. Your breath is
short and your heart is pumping. Your legs feel like they
couldn't carry you any faster. And then you hear the
groan of a zombie over your right shoulder. It's sprint or
be eaten. The zombie apocalypse isn't upon you. You're
just taking part in the latest fitness craze -- smartphone
apps that make a fun and interactive game out of your daily
Software developers are taking advantage
of smartphones' advanced technology -- GPS, accelerometers,
MP3 players -- to create "immersive" fitness games that
appeal to both avid and reluctant exercisers.
It's part of an overall trend in the
fitness industry toward making your daily workout "a fun
experience rather than something you have to do," said
Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American
Council on Exercise.
"We are attempting more 'play'
opportunities as opposed to working out, basically getting
people to move and having fun while they are doing it,"
Matthews said, noting that fitness instructors are being
encouraged to include game play in group and one-on-one
exercise as well.
One popular fitness game app, Zombies,
Run!, places you in the role of a supplies runner for a
walled community trying to survive against the walking dead.
During your run, the game's surprisingly complex story
unfolds through your headphones. You "pick up" supplies for
the community as you jog along. At certain intervals, you're
alerted that zombies are nearby, and if you don't pick up
the pace you'll have to pitch some supplies to keep from
The game doesn't end once your jog is
over. After your workout, you can use the supplies you
picked up during your run to fortify your community. The GPS
statistics from your run are uploaded automatically to the
game's website, so you can review your average speed and the
estimated calories you burned.
Other fitness game apps place you in
different scenarios. BullDash, for instance, puts you
in the middle of the running of the bulls in Pamplona,
Spain, with immersive audio propelling you forward lest you
receive a taste of the horns. Fit Freeway makes you the
engine of a race car that you drive while on a treadmill or
elliptical machine. The phone's accelerometer picks up the
motion of your stride -- the faster you go, the faster your
car goes. You tilt the phone left or right to steer.
Fitness apps that take a more social tack
also are available. Teemo, Nexercise and Fitocracy all allow
you to post your latest workout to share with friends. Some
games have you work with friends to reach a common goal --
completing a relay race, for example -- while others
"That's another big area, having that
social component," Matthews said. "Having social support of
some kind is a critical factor in adhering to an exercise
program . For some people, having that friendly competition
or the feeling of being on a team can help them stay
What's more, the apps either are free or
available at a minimal price of $2 to $4. Zombies, Run! was
currently selling for $3.99 at the time of this article.
Donna Arnett, president of the American
Heart Association, said there's good evidence already that
gadgets like accelerometers can prompt interest in physical
"I know when my accelerometer says I have
3,000 more steps to go to reach my daily goal, that
motivates me," she said. "I would think the apps would work
the same way. Anything we can do to motivate people is a
Dr. Stephen Ponder, an American Diabetes
Association spokesman, said it remains to be seen whether
these fitness games will have a lasting impact or prove a
"If there are ways to use those devices
to get people to move, I think that has a lot of potential,"
said Ponder, a pediatric endocrinologist in Temple, Texas.
"The question is, can you see yourself using this
indefinitely or would it need to change and morph and you'd
need to have different games to keep your interest? For any
kind of health technology, it needs to be something that
people will put up with and use for an extended period of
I was a little skeptical
about these programs when I read this article (thanks to my
buddy Mike Warner) but I decided to download the Zombies
Run! app anyway. I gotta say, it was actually not a
bad change and takes your mind off the run. I like the
way that it integrated a story line in between the songs on
your playlist, as well as how it works in some interval
training as you periodically kick it up a notch (based upon
GPS speed) in order to run away from the zombies. Hey,
whatever works right?