Best video games for a real workout

By John Murphy
Published May 27, 2020

Key Takeaways

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have had less access to gyms, parks, and playgrounds. By some reports, physical activity is way down while sedentary screen time is through the roof. What’s the solution? Use that screen time for physical activity by playing video games that emphasize exercise. 

Play video games to keep fit? It’s not as strange as it sounds. A variety of studies have shown that active video gaming—“exergaming”—can complement or substitute traditional physical activity in the short term. Exergaming can increase physical activity levels and help people lose weight. Because games can be more fun than simply working out, exergaming may even promote physical activity among those (particularly children) who don’t like to hit the gym. 

So, if you can’t get to the gym, get in front of the TV and load up your family’s video game system. Here are some of the best games to get your heart pumping and your feet jumping. 

Just Dance 2020

There are more than a dozen editions of Just Dance (including kids editions), and the latest one follows the same format: Players imitate dancers shown on their device screen and earn points for their performance accuracy. Players’ dance moves are tracked by a controller or smartphone. You can dance with yourself, but it’s more fun with more players. Just Dance offers a good cardio workout, and the 2020 edition features hit tunes from Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber (“I Don’t Care”), Billie Eilish (“bad guy”), Khalid (“Talk”), and Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus (“Old Town Road”).

Just Dance 2020 is available for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Wii, and Google Stadia.

Ring Fit Adventure

Billed as “an adventure game that also gives you a workout,” Ring Fit Adventure sets players on a quest to defeat an evil bodybuilding dragon and his minions using real-life exercises. The game comes with an actual ring controller (like a Pilates ring) and a leg-strap accessory to control in-game action and to track your movements. “Part [role-playing game], part on-rails shooter, this is one heck of a workout, but a fun one at that. We’ve been playing straight for a few weeks now and don’t feel any inclination to stop,” wrote reviewers on

Ring Fit Adventure is available for Nintendo Switch.

Superhot VR

This virtual reality (VR) game puts the player inside a Matrix-like electronic world where you must punch, slash, throw, and shoot through room after room of opponents. You also control time. Move fast, and your enemies move fast—move slow, and they do the same, giving you time to strategize your movements. “This is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in VR,” according to a VR Fitness Insider review. “Superhot VR, at times, feels like a game of Twister, but one done standing instead of on the floor. Expect to have your flexibility and isometric endurance tested.”

Superhot VR is available for Oculus, PlayStation VR, Windows Mixed Reality, and Vive.

Beat Saber

Another VR game, Beat Saber is something like Guitar Hero and Just Dance...but with lightsabers. Slice through different colored blocks flying at you, matching your stroke to the beat of the music. “The beauty of Beat Saber is that you don't really notice the physical exertion you’re putting into it because it’s so much fun—but you'll certainly feel it tomorrow,” according to TechRadar. Update: The game designers recently released a free song specifically designed for exercise. 

Beat Saber is available for Oculus, PlayStation VR, Windows Mixed Reality, and Vive.

Zumba: Burn it Up! 

Similar in format to Just Dance, Zumba: Burn it Up! requires players to use the controller to match steps with dancers on screen. But, while Just Dance is more like a game that provides a workout, this is more like a fitness workout converted into a video game. “Zumba: Burn it Up! will appeal to the hardcore fans of the workout program and for those who want to do some serious cardio. While it’s not going to win points for its lack of killer top tracks or limited modes, it’s a great time for those serious about their exercise goals,” according to a review on Gaming Trend. 

Zumba: Burn it Up! is available for Nintendo Switch.

Fitness Boxing

Looking for a boxing coach? Fitness Boxing gives you a virtual, personal boxing trainer who instructs you to bob, weave, jab, and uppercut to instrumental versions of popular hits. As you play along, you progress to more complex workouts. The game also charts your fitness age and calories burned. “The whole thing is a genuinely effective training program,” according to a review by a personal trainer on TechRadar. “I can honestly say I would recommend it to my clients as a workout for those days when reaching the gym just isn’t going to happen.”

Fitness Boxing is available for Nintendo Switch.

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