'Exergaming' Gets a Reboot
By Brad Frischkorn
‘Exergaming,’ a term originally coined in the 1980s for exercise combined with video games and designed for the growing ranks of couch potatoes, may have finally begun hit the mainstream thirty years later.
Korea-based Zoit Co.'s Z-BIKE is a new, revolutionary interactive exercise bike that seems to have solved some of the problems of the old game-assisted exercise machines by adding fun, drama, and a workout for both the upper and lower body.
At its core, the Z-BIKE relies on innovative ZOM software to connect the bike via Bluetooth with any mobile device, which is them mounted between the unit’s handle bars. ZOM calibrates the user's current body condition with the his or her goals to design an appropriate, personalized exercise routine
The software also contains a menu of interactive games, allows for the sharing of data and scores, and can be set to automatically remind the user to exercise when routines are forgotten.
The bike itself features a minimalistic, ergonomic design that reflects some thoughtful engineering. Most impressive is the handlebar structure, which flexes noiselessly at the neck to accommodate turning motions as required by the game routine.
Depending on the level of difficulty, the handlebars force the rider to apply torque to turning maneuvers, which adds an upper body workout to the existing pedaling motion. Heart rate sensors are also embedded in the grips.
With an iPad mini mounted on the bike and an ‘extreme’ motocross program queued up, a trial run of the Z-BIKE was engrossing. Encouragement is provided when the rider falls behind competitors, and the upper body resistance induces ample sweat.
The Z-BIKE retails for about $400 per copy. The user supplies the mobile device; the app is free.
Overall, the market for health e-games remains in the early growth stage, but has already reached the multi-billion dollar level. In recent years, before/after studies have showed that exergames are associated with better outcome in BMI (body mass index)/weight, with evidence for improvements in the so-called "VO2 max" (oxygen consumed when exercising at maximum effort).
The Z-BIKE takes the exercise beyond the game level, and allows for fitness data to be shared with trainers and physicians.
“The system may cut down on doctor’s visits,“ says company CEO Sung-Han Lee. "If customers can do a better job of monitoring their own health, then the job of health care professionals will certainly be a lot easier."
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