Can't drag yourself out of bed for a morning jog? Try 'exer-gaming' instead.
For starters, you don't need much self-discipline to stay at home and play video games on the TV.
But don't expect to relax on the couch while you are playing: you will be swinging a game controller around or dancing to the in-game music.
New gaming systems such as the Nintendo Wii feature new wireless technology that allows more forms of interactive gameplay.
Players can simulate a boxing match using specially designed boxing gloves or have a realistic game of tennis with a wireless racket-shaped controller in hand.
While the games are virtual, the calories burned while playing are real. A study conducted in January by Mayo Clinic, a medical group in the United States, found that exer-gaming can fight childhood obesity as the energy spent is similar to that of 'traditional playtime'.
The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) also conducted a similar study on the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) dance simulation arcade game in 2000 and declared it a safe mode of aerobic exercise.
One of the doctors involved in the SSC study, Dr Benedict Tan, voiced his support for exer-games during an interview with Digital Life, labelling them a 'good and creative way to get gamers active'.
The 40-year-old medical director of the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre noted that while gameplay is of low intensity, it is sufficient to maintain a general level of fitness.
When Digital Life conducted our own exer-gaming experiment, participants found themselves sweaty but happy. (see The Exer-gaming Experiment on facing page.)
In fact, many people are achieving significant weight loss by exer-gaming alone. Success stories abound on the Internet and some have even made it to the media.
One of the most widely publicised is the case of Mr Mickey DeLorenzo, 25, who earned himself his 15 minutes of fame on CNN and several American newspapers for his exer-gaming exploits.
The Nintendo Wii fan had followed a daily regime of 30 minutes of the Wii Sports game and lost a total of 4kg in six weeks, dropping from 82kg to 78kg. Players of Wii Sports use the wireless handheld controller of the Nintendo Wii to play sports like tennis and golf by mimicking the actions involved.
Said Mr DeLorenzo in an e-mail interview from Philadelphia: 'It's like anything new you try, but a lot more fun.'
The Nintendo Wii is not yet released in Singapore, but gamers can get their hands on other fitness game systems available here, such as the XavixPort television game system, which is developed by martial arts actor Jackie Chan. It features games such as bowling, boxing and aerobic workouts led by the man himself.
It can count Mrs Katherine Tham as one of its satisfied customers.
The 34-year-old bought the system one month ago and found it an 'interesting form of exercise' which she enjoyed.
She told Digital Life: 'One of the benefits of such games is that the whole family, including the children, can play the game at home.'
This was echoed by Mr Louis Yu, business executive of amusement centre operator TKA Amusement, who pointed out that such games do away with the physical limitations of sport and thus allow parents to compete with their children regardless of age.
By the same token, the physically-impaired can enjoy playing sports in which they would otherwise be unable to take part.
Another benefit of exer-gaming is that it is fun - unlike some fitness regimes - so people will stick with it.
This was highlighted by Dr Tan, who cited an example of an obese student stigmatised by his school's efforts to get him to exercise.
Such students can benefit from exer-gaming, which he willingly takes part in and may thus develop a positive attitude towards working out.
The American state of West Virginia has already recognised this.
Hoping to battle its high child obesity rate, it signed a three-year partnership with game publisher Konami last year to install DDR arcade machines in all of its 765 public schools.
Is it time yet to throw away that dusty pair of running shoes?
Not yet, say experts.
Be warned: exer-gaming can also result in injuries due to the repetitive motion of the limbs during gameplay.
Fans of the Nintendo Wii are reporting an exclusive form of injury - the 'Wii elbow' - from waving the handheld controller for long periods of time.
For DDR players, prolonged dancing on the dance pad results in blisters and pain in the knee joints due to the repeated stamping movements.
To avoid such injuries, Dr Tan advised that exergamers should also include other conventional forms of exercise into their fitness regime, such as running or swimming.
Or try this innovative method by Mr Greg Ratajik, a software developer from the US, that offers the best of both worlds.
The 39-year-old World Of Warcraft fan fitted his exercise bike with gaming accessories so that he could play the multiplayer online game while exercising.
Through 'Warbiking', he managed to lose 41lbs (19kg) in three months last year. He had this to say to Digital Life readers: 'It's possible to turn a physically negative thing (playing a lot of Warcraft) into something positive, if you're creative about it. I wanted to lose weight and get some exercise - Warbiking did the trick!'
Read about Daryl Lim's exer-gaming feats online at www.straitstimes.com.sg
Exer-gaming can be just as tiring as the real things, as Daryl Lim found out.
We put our bodies on the line to test the much-vaunted fat-burning powers of exergaming or working out to video games.
A Polar heart-rate monitor, the F55, was used to monitor the maximum heart rate during and the calories burned after each exercise. These readings measure the intensity of the activity.
For each exercise, the maximum heart rate (MHR) is recorded in beats-per-minute (bpm) and the calories burned per hour of activity (cal/hr) is calculated.
A one-hour jog was also included in the experiment as a benchmark to compare the sweat-and-burn factor in exergaming to conventional exercise.
Jogging: A slow 12km jog at constant speed.
Duration of exercise: 1 hour
MHR: 167bpm, cal/hr: 813
Dance Dance Revolution (DDR): High-intensity dance simulation game.
Duration: 5 min
MHR: 182bpm, cal/hr: 720
Para Para: Game requring the player to wave and flap his arms according to the arrows flashed onscreen.
Duration: 10 min
MHR: 141bpm, cal/hr: 322
Action Run: Virtual running game.
Duration: 5 min
MHR: 190bpm, cal/hr: 1020
Nintendo Wii games
Wii Tennis: Tennis simulation.
Duration: 15 min
MHR: 111bpm, cal/hr: 268
Wii Boxing: Virtual boxing competition where you make punching actions with the controller.
Duration: 15 min
MHR: 127bpm, cal/hr: 272
VERDICT: TIRING STUFF
High-intensity games like the DDR game and the Action Run left us breathless after just a few minutes and burnt a similar amount of calories as jogging, making them the games of choice for exergamers.
However, those on the other end of the spectrum, such as Para Para, were more relaxation than exertion and our low heart rates during the activity reflected so.