My embarrassing Nintendo Ring Fit injury made me realize the limits of my body

Fitness games are great, but you can still hurt yourself if you're not careful.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

CNET's Bridget Carey using Ring Fit Adventure a few months ago. Not shown: Me pulling a muscle over the weekend.

Mark Licea/CNET

Getting into some post-turkey exercise gaming with Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch certainly seemed like a good idea at first. This modern take on the classic Wii Fit concept drew me into some heavy-duty workouts a few months ago, but hadn't seen much use lately. 

Two days later, I'm getting spasms whenever I get up to walk around. Consider my predicament a warning if you're picking up a fitness game for the holidays, whether it's Ring Fit Adventure on the Switch or Beat Saber on the Oculus Quest: take care. 

I'm a dad. A middle-aged, out-of-shape dad. I was stupid. No stretches, I thought, even though the game advised me to. No warmup. It's simple stuff. Ring Fit uses a flexing ring and a leg band to combine some basic strength exercises with running in place and squatting, things like that. I've played before. It's fine.

(Note: the photos here aren't me...they're of Bridget Carey, who tried Ring Fit before I did. I did my workouts at home, and...well, I didn't take selfies.)

Less than a minute in, and a simple squeeze in on the ring led to a pulled muscle in my side? Back? I really have no idea what happened. I'd been driving for hours the day before, out to Long Island to see my mom and sister. Did that cause it? Did I lift something? Am I just really, really that out of shape?

The next morning, it still hurt to stand up. Today it's the same. 

I did think that, compared to earlier games like Wii Fit, Ring Fit Adventure was more ambitious about throwing you into exercise. Some of the more complex leg lifts and squats aren't that easy if you've never done them before, especially depending on your age and fitness. I love how the game is designed, and the ring accessory works. But... yeah, I don't know how I actually did this to my back.

The Oculus Quest, a fantastic standalone VR headset, is a surprisingly active device, too. Its most popular game, Beat Saber, is a lightsaber-swinging dance game. Virtual table tennis, dancing and boxing games involve plenty of action. You can, and will, sweat. I haven't injured myself using the Quest yet (miraculously), but much like Ring Fit, there's always a chance of not preparing properly.

In virtual reality or video games, I feel like I can be a superhero. In reality... I'm a dad who can pull his muscles pretty quickly. I've been taken back down to reality. My quick fix isn't going to be quick at all.

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The old Wii Fit mostly involved stepping on and off a balance board, which now permanently lives under my couch. It was something that my parents could have dabbled in. The newest wave of fitness games are a bit more motion-heavy, and maybe they should have a little more guidance when moves are intense and what could happen if they're not done correctly.

Or, maybe, I should just treat my fitness games like a trip to the gym, and do some stretches first. 

Video game fitness is like any fitness: It doesn't happen overnight. It takes careful ramping up. And if you're trying to dive in without a bit of regular practice, you could go too far.

I still love Ring Fit Adventure, and its multiple game save profiles have let my whole family log their own progress. I still plan on using it! Just... maybe not this week.

A word of advice to anyone buying fitness games for the holidays: Definitely try them, but treat them (and your body) with respect.

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