Promoted: A Week of Exercise with Just Dance 2018

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[It’s easy to laugh off a title like Just Dance when there are a lot of other games to play, but Boxman felt he absolutely needed the exercise. And really, with a goal of some exercise when the fail state is absolutely no exercise, Just Dance delivered for him. His experience with it here is frank and refreshing. Don’t worry about it, just dance! ~Marcel Hoang]

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My work has a program we call “LiveWell.” It’s really just a program to encourage our employees to improve their health and wellness. This year, a big thing is “experiments.” Try something for a short time, like a week. See how it goes. Did it help? Did you enjoy it?

A bunch of coworkers did an experiment for one week where they didn’t use any electronic screens for one hour before bed. This was to help them sleep. I refused to participate in such a ridiculous exercise, but they all reported improved sleep at the end of the week. I should probably do it. But I won’t.

I lead a very sedentary lifestyle. I work a desk job and therefore I sit on my butt for eight hours a day. I then go home and sit on my butt for the rest of the evening. Then I go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. I’m acutely aware of how unhealthy it is. I desperately need to exercise, but how can I do it? I hate exercise! A little over a week ago, I had a realization. I should Just Dance. I decided to play Just Dance every day for at least one week. I would play for at least 30 minutes each day.

This isn’t a review of Just Dance. It’s just a discussion of how well it worked as an exercise tool.

I should start by discussing my goal with exercise. I really have only one concern: I’m overweight, but I don’t really care about losing weight. If I lose it, that would be marvelous and I’d be very happy. But that isn’t my goal. I don’t care about gaining muscle mass. My real concern is my heart.

I’m in my late twenties but I have absolutely horrific cholesterol. Combine that with my lack of exercise and I have a recipe for a heart attack in my forties. I am absolutely terrified about this idea. So what I need is some aerobic exercise to get my heart rate up for at least 30 minutes. The ideal would be to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. I don’t know that I can maintain that long term, but if I can at least get above zero exercise, that would be great.

I don’t exercise. Almost at all. Occasionally I’ll do some yoga (I’ll plug the excellent YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene here), which is wonderful. But it doesn’t accomplish my goal of keeping my heart rate up. And that’s all the exercise I get. I need to do something. But I hate all forms of exercise.

Except, it turns out, for Just Dance

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A couple Christmases ago I purchased Just Dance 2017 for my wife on PS4. She rather enjoyed it. I did not. My biggest gripe with it is that it uses your cell phone as your controller. I have a massive phone. It’s unwieldy. And if I throw or drop it during exercise, it could break.

This past Christmas I bought the 2018 version for my wife on Nintendo Switch. It’s infinitely superior because you have the option to use the Joy-Con for control. These are much easier to hold. They have a wrist strap to deal with drops or throws. And of course, they’re made of Nintendium. The Switch also would allow me to take it out of the house, but I haven’t utilized this benefit for Just Dance

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Just Dance is a simple dancing game. It’s a rhythm action game. A licensed song plays on your speakers while the silhouette of a dancer plays on screen. Your job is to hold a Joy-Con in your right hand and mirror every move of the person on screen. Not complicated. Anyone can understand it. 

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The game is basically all pop songs. The majority of them are contemporary (I gather that the 2019 edition is all contemporary). You’ll see Beyonce, Selena Gomez, and Shakira. 

Speaking of Shakira, her music is wonderful for this game. Basically all of the Latin tracks are fantastic for exercise. They really get you moving and they’re very fun! Very energetic! 

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Not all tracks are created equal. Some of the choreography is really simple. Some is just kind of dumb. Some involve a lot of spinning around. This is awful. I get dizzy very quickly with this.

If I were in charge, I would strongly discourage any spinning in the choreography of the dances. I would even go so far as to limit each song to a maximum of one spin around. Seriously though, try playing You Spin Me Round without getting dizzy. 

The choreography in the game is mostly silly. You won’t be learning serious dance moves. If you perfect the dances in this game, don’t expect to be able to go cut a rug in a dance club. A lot of the movements feel like Tae Bo, frankly:

I do appreciate that, over time, you can unlock additional songs. You can even unlock alternate choreographies for various songs. You unlock things very frequently, but most of the unlocks are dumb and pointless. They’re “stickers.”  Very helpful to have digital stickers.

I also really enjoy that the variety of songs gives you varying intensity of music. Some songs will really get your blood pumping. Others are comparatively relaxed. I like to do about five songs, give or take.

I’ll start with one about medium intensity. Something like Eye of the Tiger. Get warmed up and energized. Then I’ll do a less intense one. Then I’ll do a really intense song like Footloose. Then a lighter one. Then I’ll end on a medium. This is a very rough idea. I don’t follow it strictly. And sometimes you guess how intense a song will be and you are way wrong. 

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Another feature the game has that I really enjoy are Dance Labs. They are a sequence of five activities that aren’t really dances, but are played the same way as dances. The premise is that aliens come to earth and you must teach them all about life on earth using interpretive dance. For example, you might imitate a frog, then a miner, then an astronaut, then a jellyfish, and end as a baseball player. It provides great variety and varying levels of intensity within one routine. 

But here’s the big thing to be aware of: If you’re going to use this game as an exercise tool, you really ought to consider subscribing to Just Dance Unlimited. It’s a service that gives you access to hundreds of songs via the Internet. Almost like a Netflix of Just Dance. If you just play the songs available on a single edition of the game, you’ll get bored in a few weeks. My copy of the game came with a 90-day trial of Unlimited and it’s been really fun. It provides a ridiculous amount of variety.

If I continue using this as an exercise tool, I will gladly pay for Unlimited. A year costs about $25 when I checked. If you compare that to a gym membership, it’s pennies. As a game service, I think it’s expensive. But for an exercise platform, super affordable. It’s all in how you look at things (and no, this blog is not sponsored by Ubisoft in any way).

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But what if you don’t have money for that? Heck, what if you don’t even have a game console? You’re not out of luck! You can often find people streaming Just Dance and you can simply play along with them at home. You won’t get feedback on your performance, but you’ll still be getting your body moving and that’s awesome! I haven’t looked, but I’d wager you can find recordings of people playing it on YouTube, which would also be a free way to play.

Another thing is this is so much fun to play with other people. Four people can easily play if you have four Joy-Con. Some songs are even designed for four participants. You could even do a massive group. Put the game up on a projector screen and just have everyone play without Joy-Con. Take it to your next family reunion and lead everyone in exercise like Dan in Real Life:

One last thing I’d like to mention is feet. You hold your Joy-Con in your right hand. The game only tracks your success with the movement of that hand. Any left-hand movements are unscored. And any foot movements are unscored. At times, the footwork can be really hard to perform accurately, at least for someone as uncoordinated as me. But if you play this game for the purpose of exercise, really try to keep up with the footwork. It will greatly improve the quality of the aerobics. Your heart rate will go and stay up much better.

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Just Dance! I’m very surprised by this, and pleasantly so. One of the nicest things is that time really flies by when you play this. Half an hour is over before you know it, and you may even want to play more! Just Dance is super approachable.

Since it’s a game, the scores provide you with instant feedback. Seeing a good score is instantly gratifying. You can even turn on “sweat” mode which just estimates how many calories you burned after each song. This is all really great. One of the many reasons exercise is so difficult is that your only motivation is the theoretical future you that is healthier, skinnier, hotter, etc. You still have that here but it’s coupled with the instant reward of a high score. 

For my purposes, Just Dance is an extremely effective exercise tool. Depending on your exercise goals, it may not be as good a fit (you’re not going to build massive biceps with this, for example). But if you just need to get off the couch and get your heart rate up, Just Dance will absolutely accomplish this. You’ll have fun. Time will go by swiftly. You’ll feel good. You may even learn about some music that you weren’t familiar with before. Here is my favorite song that I newly encountered this week:

My experiment was a great success. I will absolutely play Just Dance more for exercise. I don’t know that I’ll do it every day. But I will continue. My invitation to you is to try an experiment in your own life. It might be trying an exercise routine. Or perhaps you could add or remove something to your diet. It could be something less health-oriented. You could reduce your spending on something to save money. You could try reading a book or consuming another bit of art. You could listen to Ted Talks or something like that. You could journal. You could do something nice for someone each day.

Just try something out for a short time (a week is great but it doesn’t have to be one week). See how it makes you feel. Did it improve your life in any way? If so, consider implementing that as a more permanent thing. If it didn’t improve things, that’s okay. Try something else next week or next month!

So please share your thoughts with us. What are you doing to improve your health or wellness? Also, what are your thoughts on Just Dance if you’ve played it?

Last, I’ll leave this here with no context:

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