Use Tech to Fend off Freshman 15

Freshmen gain many things in their first year of college: friends, knowledge and pizza boxes among other things. But no one said compiling an impressive pizza box collection comes without a price — one thing many students will also gain is weight.

As the back-to-school season rolls around, so too returns the threat of the infamous Freshman 15 weight gain.

Luckily, both the entertainment and fitness industries have taken advantage of new technologies like the Wii and Nike + Ipod to give college kids a fighting chance in the war against beer bellies.

Michael Kanellos, technology expert and editor at large at, believes tech's turn toward fitness has been borne out of necessity. "People are really worried about obesity and people sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Why don't we make playing these games more fun while also getting exercise?"

Virtually Playing, Really Working

Combining video games, a notoriously sedentary activity, with exercise has reached new levels with the advent of the very active Nintendo Wii console, but it is not a new concept.

Arguably the first popular video game to combine exercise and entertainment was Nintendo's "Track & Field" game released in 1985 in which players could run in place on a pad on the floor to control their virtual counterpart. The game has proved so popular that real track and field teams still encourage its use during at-home, supplemental training.

Fast-forward more than a decade when Dance Dance Revolution began making its way around the world after its 1998 release in Japan.

"DDR is awesome," Wake Forest University senior and avid dancer Andrew Wall told, describing the game in which the player has to step on the correct colored floor panel at the right time to complete the dance, "and it's a good workout too. You have to be fast."

When players began swinging their Wii controllers in every direction while playing virtual tennis, baseball and boxing among other sports games in 2006, many got a workout without noticing it.

"I work up a sweat when I play," said Wall who believes that while the Wii can burn a few calories, it's best if used as a supplement to a regular workout.

"Nobody's going to go running to get in shape to play Wii," he said.

Nintendo will be providing a more fitness-centered gaming experience in 2008 with the planned release of Wii Fit, a "series of games designed to increase fitness through balance and aerobics," according to

The system will use what Nintendo is tentatively calling the Wii Balance Board, a pressure-sensitive platform that will allow the Wii to virtually replicate full-body movements, meaning users can practice yoga, aerobics and other exercises while following virtual instructors.

Wii Fit is not the first system to take advantage of the total body experience, however.

Tech guru Kanellos has been using BodyPad, a French-designed system in which the users strap sensors on each hand, arm and leg and play dozens of Playstation 2 or XBox fighting games the way they were meant to be played: by breaking a sweat while actually throwing punches and kicks.

Tech-Aided Exercise

While some technology makes entertainment more active, other technology makes being active more entertaining so college kids won't get bored working off big meals.

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