Reviewed: December 24, 2010
Released: November 18, 2010
I spent the first half of my life as an athlete. I ran track and played soccer pretty much year round. I didn't really need a workout program. My young system could handle anything I threw at it. Now in my “adult” years I have to be deliberate and disciplined about exercise. I'm still adjusting.|
I've done everything from Bowflex and NordicTrack to the more recent P90X. I've learned a lot. The two main things I've learned: 1. it doesn't matter how good the equipment or program is, it's worthless if you don't use it. 2. What you eat matters more than how hard you work out. Garbage in, garbage out.
The “tools” do matter of course. You have to use something that meets your needs and helps keep you motivated. That can mean different things for different people. Skiers might enjoy a NordicTrack more than other things. Video game players might like the new EA Sports Active 2.
When you open the box you’ll find three white sensors with straps, batteries, the game disc, USB receiver and a green stretch band. The sensors are key to getting the most out of EA Sports Active 2. You have to strap a heart monitor on your right arm, and movement sensors on your left arm and right leg. At first I thought it was kind of neat being strapped in to all this “hi-tech” sensor equipment, but pretty soon I found it to be annoying.
Poor engineering has made these sensors much larger than needed. Most of the bulk is to house 2 AA batteries per sensor. I really have to wonder why my wristwatch can track my heartbeat and distance traveled running off a small button battery and EA has to use bulky AA batteries strapped to my limbs? Once you have the sensors synced up with the included USB receiver you take a quick test to determine your fitness level.
Your weight and heartbeat are tracked over the life of your 3 or 9-week programs. There is also a journal with surveys about your lifestyle and eating habits. Using these tools the system can help setup the best workout for you and give you a list of goals. It also provides several visual graphs showing your progress which can be very motivating – or not. It of course keeps track of your last workout and gives you a cheery “You've been away and now its time to get fit and have fun!” when you get lazy. A video screen doesn't quite do it for me.
EA has turned the PS3 into a pretty extensive workout tool. This isn't for someone who just wants to jump in and do a quick workout. Each session will take at least 30 minutes. This also isn't a casual routine where you can just pop in a DVD and feel like you are working out with a group at your own pace while you have a donut and coffee.
There is a cardio kick-start 3-week program (12 preset workouts designed to intensify over 3 weeks) that will get you up to speed. Then the 9-week (36 workouts) program. Both have easy, medium, and hard intensity levels to meet your needs.
There are 162 workouts with a trainer with a wide variety of activities. 68 workout stations give you the standard types of stretches, raises and curls. These are pretty basic but give you a wide range of movements that will help get you through the long winter months. There are also 6 fitness activities, which try to simulate more rigorous activities. Mountain biking is basically jump training, then you can move on to mountain boarding, soccer, basketball, boxing, and step aerobics.
All of these activities are pretty simple. Don't be fooled by the “sports” in the list though – these are much less active than using real games on the Wii, PS3 Move or Xbox Kinect. I would think that sensors actually being worn on the arms and legs would be very accurate but they are not. I was continually frustrated with the system not “seeing” my movements to catch a basketball or jump. It proved more frustrating than motivating and I soon turned the system off and played some games with the PlayStation Move instead.
Online connectivity is more for the competitive types than for those looking for workout partners. There is a lot more EA could have done with this online. Using the PlayStation camera would have made for some good group workout accountability. But all they did was workout groups that you can join and share your workout stats. It's not a “live” session but instead more of a leaderboard. It doesn't really do much for my competitive side or accountability needs.
EA Sports Active 2 is an interesting idea. On the surface it would seem like a great product for winter workouts. But in actual use I found it frustrating and boring. The repetitive announcer isn't motivating. The 3 sensors are larger than needed, annoying to wear, and can be wildly inaccurate. But at least EA included batteries.
There is something about a computer generated workout instructor that doesn't motivate me at all. I think most people enjoy working out like this with other people – to feel a sense of connection and competition. EA Sports Active 2 fails at these two points. Even the high definition graphics of the PS3 cannot bring the level of interactivity needed to motivate people to work out.
If you are the slightest bit motivated, you will probably find a DVD program like P90X will give you much better results. But if you must have a video game style workout program, EA Sports Active 2 is certainly worth consideration.