Can you get fit for 2021 with Nintendo Switch? Can playing video games really give you a full body workout and aid weight loss? I've been trying the best Nintendo Switch games for fitness and – particularly in the case of Ring Fit Adventure – I’d say the answer is YES.Sure, it's not like some hardcore 15-minute six-pack workout, but for a lot people who find all that grunting and sweating off-putting, this could be THE best home workout.
It’s no surprise to see Nintendo leading the way when it comes to fitness video games. The OG Wii Fit was one of the best selling games on the Nintendo Wii and made physical movement enjoyable for people who otherwise might not find this activity all that appealing. Fast-forward 14 years and Ring Fit Adventure, among other titles, is powering up Nintendo Switch to a whole new level of swole.
I put a selection of the best Nintendo Switch games for fitness to the test, to find out if they are any good at helping you to lose belly fat fast. I used a heart rate monitor to measure my body's energy expenditure playing video games: these are still the most precise fitness wearables to track heart rate, although some of the best running watches are getting really price too.
Can you REALLY lose weight playing Nintendo Switch games?
My initial thought was 'no' but after trying the games, I must say they can certainly burn calories and can definitely improve physical fitness when played correctly (and frequently). Not all Nintendo Switch fitness games were created equal, but they all have their uses, as you'll see.
Overall, the game that can not only help you lose weight but potentially help you get stronger too is Ring Fit Adventure, not surprisingly. The Joy Con-powered ring controller can provide some resistance (which is required for muscle building) and the variety of in-game exercises can help you stay motivated: the perfect combination for long term weight loss.
How did we compare the best Nintendo Switch fitness games?
Each of the below games were played for (approximately) half an hour and if there was an option to set this, I chose the most physical way of playing them. For instance, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be played using buttons only but for the test, the dual – or if not available, single – controller setup was chosen. In Ring Fit Adventure, I chose the 'Extreme' difficulty setting. For the other two games on this list, I used the default controller settings.
Ring Fit Adventure: undisputed Switch fitness champ
Best for: all fitness needs, even building muscles… but definitely losing weight
Calories burned (in 30 minutes): 245 kcal
Ring Fit Adventure is an amazing game. It is not easy but it makes exercising a little bit more fun without compromising on the quality of the workout. There are over 40 different exercises you can do in the game (once all unlocked), not to mention the mini games that targets certain muscle groups and the custom workouts you can put together for yourself.
You'll have to grind through the main story mode in order to unlock new moves. Needless to say, the story is not overly complicated but you don't play this game for the immersing story. Different moves have different attack points and you must use some strategy if you want to beat your opponents before they take you down.
Ring Fit Adventure is an indoor game and Nintendo thankfully included some features to make working out with this game more neighbour friendly. You can play in "Silent Mode" where you can squat pulse as opposed to stationary jog in order to move your virtual avatar forward on the screen, reducing the amount of vibrations and sounds you make as you defeat your opponents.
Thanks to the special controllers and the way they are worn, playing Ring Fit Adventure provides a full body workout. You can train your legs and improve your cardiovascular system just by stationary jogging/squat pulsing, let alone doing actual squats during Fit Battles in the game.
One of the downsides of the game is the lack of variety in the exercises at the beginning of the game: you can only choose from 4-5 to start off with and you unlock one at the time as you progress in the story. You can also choose which exercises you want to do in each battle and although I appreciate the flexibility, a more structured approach could ensure that players don't slack off picking the easier exercises to progress.
Playing Ring Fit Adventure is not a like-for-like replacement for working out with kettlebells, dumbbells or suspension trainers, but it is a fun way to introduce people to resistance training and get them healthier too.
Want to lose weight? Get your dieting game right
It is worth mentioning that the best way to lose belly fat is not to over-eat and to have a healthy, balanced diet. Playing fitness games on Nintendo Switch is great fun and they can also help you tone up and boost metabolism, but without proper diet, you won't see any results.
We have a range of diet guides here on T3 if you need some inspiration, including a keto diet meal plan and tips on losing weight with intermittent fasting. You might want to consider cutting alcohol for quicker weight loss and even discovering the best time of day to workout for weight loss.
One thing that might help is keeping a tab on foods to avoid and include in a healthy diet and, of course, protein. Protein is great for both muscle building and weight loss and conveniently enough, we have a guide to the best protein powders as well as the best protein bars and even the best jerky – both the meaty stuff and the vegan substitutes for it.
Best Nintendo Switch fitness games
Nintendo Fitness Boxing
Best for: improving aerobic fitness, toning the arms
Calories burned (in 30 minutes): 183 kcal
Fitness Boxing is seemingly the love-child of the original Wii Fit and Just Dance 2020, or any generic dance game for that matter. In Fitness Boxing, you need to perform a set of moves while following the beat of the music, with the cues floating into the screen from the bottom.
It's fun to do, especially if you like to work out to listening pop music. There are even incentives, like unlocking new music and the ability to dress your instructor up in new outfits, as you put the hours into the game. Better still, you can do workouts that target different body parts and even set the time you would like to work them out for. When training the biceps, your workout will include a lot of uppercuts and the pecs will be attacked by doing hooks.
Needless to say, your legs won't be worked too much, all that is required from your lower body is some light bouncing around, at least at the beginning. If you want to build leg muscles, check out our best glute workout piece for inspiration.
Due to the sensors in the Joy Con controllers not being as precise as an atomic clock, some of the punches are not registered and even if they were, getting them 'perfect' each time is anything but easy. If you don't mind the lack of precision, you'll be rewarded by being able to relive the glory days of aerobic boxing workouts of the early 90s with Fitness Boxing.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Best for: HIIT upper body workouts, group exercising
Calories burned (in 30 minutes): 191 kcal
The Mario & Sonic at the Olympics series is not new – the first game came out in 2007 – and given the subject matter, the games in this series always had a sporty aura around them. This is the case in the latest iteration, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which probably should be renamed Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 at this point but never mind.
In the game, you can try mimicking different sports using the dual Joy Con setup and from my experience, the running-related sports are the most challenging. Some other principles, like climbing, are pretty impossible to do using the sensors: it just wouldn't register the position of the arms, even if you wave them around like a lunatic.
Where Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 really shines is the multiplayer mode.If you have a big enough TV – and big enough space – four people can play this game simultaneously, making it the perfect fitness party game.
There is even a story mode if you prefer to play alone and better still, there are some retro games available in this mode that can also be played later using classic characters from both the Mario and Sonic franchises.
- Best biceps and triceps workout for home gyms
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- Best calisthenics home workout
Zelda: Breath of The Wild
Best for: puzzle solving (not for improving fitness for sure)
Calories burned (in 30 minutes): 30 kcal
Zelda: Breath of The Wild is an amazing game with a lot of depth and it will most likely entertain you for at least a few months after you start playing with it. This game will keep your mind occupied with its shrine-puzzles and complex mechanics, not to mention the cooking feature and the bazillion side quests available to complete.
One thing Zelda: BoTW won't get you is fit, though, since you don't use any muscles to move Link around on the screen. Sure, your brain is responsible for a big chunk of your resting metabolic calories burned, but even focusing really hard on this game won't increase calorie expenditure much.
Maybe you should try doing 10 pushups every time you unlock a shrine might help you building some arm definition?
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout 2021 to get everyone fit and healthy. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a challenging year for many. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.