A good little while ago, I was sent the EA Sports Active Personal Trainer to review, a fitness programme for the Nintendo Wii which can also make use of the Wii Balance Board. It came just at the right time, when I'd started my attempt to shift a stone of weight and above all, get back into some form of exercise, well over 2 years post baby. My exercise regime, and weight loss, are currently on hold because there's only so many hours in the day. However, I had a really good shot at the product.
I used to be reasonably fit and I have a tendency to, well, overdo it. In the sense that if I do exercise, I want to get sweating and get the most out of it. The Wii Fit was getting boring, so I was delighted with the opportunity to test the EA Sports Active, it was a welcome change of scene on the TV screen.
The programme comes with a leg strap and a resistance band, and you will need a nunchuck for it. It's also useful to read the instructions and get an introduction to each individual exercise (I couldn't be bothered just wanting to start exercising and had a few interruptions as a consequence).
The actual programme offers a range of preset exercise sessions, ranging from easy to hard, 15-45 minutes. Alternatively, you can embark on the 30 challenge (which I did and then didn't complete) or make up your own exercise sessions.
What I liked about it was that it's reasonably customizable. For instance, you can choose at any workout whether or not you want to use the Wii Balance Board for your workout. To be honest, I find the Balance Board rather cumbersome so while I tried it, what with having to change between it, the resistance band and the nunchuck either in the leg strap or in the hand - to make things simpler and quicker, I preferred to use the EA Sports Active without the Board.
Once you get to know the different activities, it's great fun to make up your own exercise session, with all your favourite activities. I also liked the range of exercises - as someone who has absolutely no knowledge of baseball/cricket, I utterly enjoyed the baseball exercises. The resistance band allows you to make muscle toning exercises as hard as you like. There is an almost endless list of different exercises, covering both muscle toning and aerobic exercises. Another feature I liked was that there was an option to change the music and that the music in general didn't get repetitive. Of course, I'd be in heaven if I could actually use my own music somehow but clearly this is not something I'd ever expect in such a game. Another feature I liked was the calorie count - I find this more motivating than anything else. A final plus is the fact that at the start of each session you can pick the intensity of the workout.
The personal trainer got a bit on my nerves at times. I'm not one who enjoys constant praise, I'd rather get on with it. Having said that, it's not as bad as the Wii Fit trainer. Some exercises took me a while to get right, such as the inline skating (once I got it, it was great fun though). I never got the fast highkicks and honestly believe that they just don't work. The dance exercises were rather pointless, a bit of waving but no real exercise - just as well they never lasted long. The resistance band lost its resistence a little bit over time, and it also occasionally flopped out of it's holder - not a big drawback but annoying when it happens in the middle of an exercise. During an sessions, especially if it's the 30 day challenge, there is no indication of length of the session. This is a bit of an inconvenience if Mr Cartside asks me when I'm done and I get it wrong because today's session is about twice as long as yesterday's and he has to miss his favourite TV programme.
The 30 day challenge is a good idea, however, it would work better if it could be personalised to one's own calendar. The theory is that there's 2 days of workout, one rest day. Now, my life doesn't work according to a preset fitness game schedule. While I realised that you can do an exercise day even on rest days, you can't pre set the 30 day challenge calendar according to your own diary.
The most annoying drawback for me was that if a session of the 30 day challenge finished after midnight, it didn't count for the previous day. It upset me no end, having just done the hard 40 min workout and then seeing it come up as a missed day in the calendar. Little things like that get to me, you know. The 30 day challenge also offers a lifestyle questionnaire which I found very motivating - I did actually drink more water and eat more vegetables knowing that it would get me extra points. I'm that fickle.
In comparison to the Wii Fit I enjoyed the greater range of exercises, the greater customization, and the fact you can actually do a 30-45 minutes exercise session without interruptions or having to navigate in the menu. All in all, the EA Personal Trainer is definitely value for money. I would use it regularly and it really worked for me, with a reasonable combination of muscle workouts and aerobic exercise that did get me sweating and a good bit fitter, all in the comfort of your own home.
Shame it's got to be sent back really. To be honest, I don't want to know who'll be getting my review set as a second hand product - there was quite a lot of sweat lost and absorbed in it. Not so sure if the future owner will appreciate it...