Fitness fatigue is a real thing when you’re trying to make yourself stick to an exercise plan you don’t actually enjoy. There are countless ways to exercise directly, but also indirectly. House cleaning, for instance, is one of the most underrated ways of ticking your physical activity boxes along with walking.
But for many people, most of those ways won’t tick an essential box for fitness habit building: enjoyment. Because yes, working out can be, and dare we say, should be, enjoyable. So, if hitting the gym floor, an instructor-led class or a traditional fitness app isn’t for you, we have some ideas, with an adventurous and narrative twist, to help you build a stronger exercise habit.
Story-based Augmented Reality Apps
In simple terms, augmented reality (AR) apps react to the real world, usually with graphics and sound, through your phone camera. Several apps effectively leverage this technology to get you more active by gamifying walks with challenges and rewards, and even better, doing so with a narrative twist. Here are some of our favourite story-based AR apps that encourage increased physical activity through exploring the real world. In terms of exercise, they are all essentially walking apps, but it is the thrill of immersing oneself into the story worlds that make them so wonderfully enjoyable.
It’s a bit obvious as a first choice but this is the app that got literally a billion people out of their houses and into the streets en masse, although admittedly with their eyes firmly locked on their phone screens! It fills the real world with Pokémon to be collected and battled with against other trainers.
There were plenty of jokes about Pokémon Go turning people into zombies as they inattentively trekked around glued to their phone screens. The Walking Dead: Our World, based on the hit TV series, has taken that a literal jump further by turning our world into a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic shoot ‘em up mobile game. It’s been downloaded more than 5 million times on Google Play store and as a bridge between sitting at home for your shoot ‘em up games and getting fresh air and exercise while doing the same thing though, we heartily approve.
Also developed by Niantic, the same company that makes Pokémon Go, Wizards, Unite is the Harry Potter franchise’s foray into AR apps. Unsurprisingly, it has similar game play involving explorative walking, but as we’ve already suggested, there are a thousand ways to walk, but it’s the world you’re walking in that makes the difference.
Fight-Based Virtual Reality Games
Getting into virtual reality (VR) fitness often means stepping up your workout intensity and capital investment. The latest Oculus VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, currently retails for a hefty $299 USD. However, for total immersion into a story world, VR is hard to beat especially for those who can afford the tech.
Although Beat Saber is not officially affiliated with Star Wars, let’s be honest: we all want to use it so we can feel like a Jedi (or Sith). With this Playstation game, motion controllers in your hands translate to ‘sabers’ with which you cut your way through approaching targets, providing a light upper body and aerobic home workout.
Instead of the dual sword wield of Beat Saber, Sword Master arms you with a single sword and a shield with which to block, and requires evasive action on your part, involving your legs in the workout. It’s not attached to any known story-verse but allows us to immerse into the familiarity of medieval settings, pretending to be a kickass knight errant while getting a decent workout in the comfort of your home.
Similarly, Ninja Legends allows us to channel our inner ninja in a beautiful landscape set in ancient Japan. The game throws endless opponents at you to face down with a variety of weaponry, and keeps you moving the whole way through for a full body workout.
Real-Life ‘Hero’ Fitness
VR provides superb immersion into alternate worlds, but what if you’re after something more real? Well, there are some amazing options there too. All our picks let you imagine being a hero in the real world though you’ll need to dig deep into your pocket to purchase training and for the latter two, equipment.
Daniel Craig’s exhilarating freerunning opening to Casino Royale saw Bond facing off against the founder of freerunning, Sebastian Foucan. It was a breath-taking sequence that gave freerunning and parkour a major popularity boost globally. Parkour focuses on moving as quickly and efficiently as possible across obstacles, while freerunning is its flashy, theatrical cousin. Both are now widely taught and hugely enjoyable for their thrill but also for the way you inevitably start to imagine yourself as a super spy on the chase - or escape! That or Ezio from Assassins Creed, running acrobatically across renaissance rooftops.
It’s no secret the Imaginactive team loves Star Wars and real life saber duelling— it crept into 2019’s Christmas Special, The 12 Days of Christmas, and even founder Adele Andersen’s wedding first dance. Though Disney’s legal team has ensured you’ll only find terms like ‘LED saber’ around what is otherwise obviously lightsaber combat (think Star Wars), you can actually purchase combat-ready LED sabers for around $100 USD and start bashing them around with friends for a fun, exhilarating workout routine. However, it’s a good idea, as with any full contact weapon sport, to take a few lessons first to prevent broken knuckles, bruised elbows and head injuries (speaking from experience!).
Team Imaginactive are saving up for this one: Fit Swords are adjustably weighted, padded swords for a real-life version of Sword Master. When used in combat against an opponent, they provide a huge upper body, core, leg, and cardio workout. They are better designed for safety than LED sabers, but again, you’ll want to follow the provided training first to minimise the risk of injury to yourself and your training partner. They also have a shield and double sword options to really challenge your strength, agility and reflexes and make you feel like a serious badass warrior.
Story-Based Fitness Apps
Now we’re into the sweet spot between accessibility, workout intensity and price. Story-based fitness apps contain in-app purchases, but these are significantly cheaper than any live classes or video games, and they require no equipment investment beyond the phone you already have and a pair of headphones.
With Apocalypse Survival Training, Imaginactive wanted to try to incorporate a great adventure story with other types of workouts in addition to running. It is essentially a home and outdoor workout series set in an alien invasion of the London of an alternate reality. With a range of trainers, a quirky mission team and a workout combo that includes running, bodyweight circuits and yoga/stretch, Apocalypse Survival Training is an action-packed audio fitness app that also doubles as a virtual personal trainer.
In one affordable mobile app, you get workout routines designed for cardio, strength, and flexibility fitness training. Also, Apocalypse Survival Training doesn’t skimp on entertainment. Each episode is basically a full-length audio drama, brought to life by epic soundtracks, sound effects and binaural audio processing that put you at the centre of a gripping alien invasion story.
Launched in December of 2019, Run the Realm has a similar story plus playlist format as Zombies, Run! but transplanted into a medieval setting, with the gameplay involving customising your own character and saving the realm form a terrible danger.
This is the original story-based fitness app. Launched in 2012, it is a running game in which short clips of dialogue are interspersed with your own playlist. It’s been downloaded over a million times from the Google Play store and is among the top 80 health and fitness apps in the Apple app store. Every episode or mission involves escaping zombies and helps to unfold the story of how the world became a post-apocalyptic, zombie nightmare.
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