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Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure rhythm dance mode is my perfect workout

Sweating to Mario jams to stay strong at home.

ringfitmusic

Nintendo's music fitness update for Ring Fit Adventure is a whole game on its own.

Nintendo

A Nintendo game has been my therapy during this pandemic, but it doesn't involve talking animals on a deserted island. I've been playing Ring Fit Adventure on the Switch -- a workout game that involves squeezing and stretching a Pilates wheel as I jog, squat and twist to beat baddies. The game just updated to add a new music-rhythm game and jogging mode, and it's been just what I need as a busy mom to stay strong -- and stay sane.  

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If you ever played Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution, you're familiar with the basic concept of a music-rhythm game, where you have to time your actions to the beat of the song and the onscreen cues. I love these rhythm games. (I donated many quarters to an arcade machine called Dance Maniax back in my college years. It's my thing.)

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Bridget Carey plays Ring Fit Adventure's new music-rhythm game at home.

Bridget Carey / CNET

In this new music game, you're manipulating the Pilates wheel accessory in sync with one of 17 different songs -- most songs are the background music from the Ring Fit Adventure game -- but it includes a few from other titles like Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Splatoon 2. For those that want to take it old school, there's even a workout song from the Wii Fit. Choose whether you want to focus the workout on arms, legs or your core, and select a difficultly level of novice or advanced.

So I dive right into Super Mario Odyssey music on novice, and it seems slow and basic. Stretch. Squeeze. Stretch. Squeeze. But by the end of a three-minute song I can feel it a little in my arms. Switch to the harder mode and there are more moves in the mix: squat, twist, rapid-fire squeezing. It still seems like it's moving at a pace that's easy to follow along visually. But after a minute I really started to feel winded, and my body was having a hard time following my brain. (At least when I miss it doesn't call it a miss -- it just says "Er..." There is no losing. Just "Er.")

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There is no failure after a tough session. Just a lot of "Er..."

Screenshot: Bridget Carey / CNET

Three songs later, I'm done. Arms feel like Jell-O. I save my score for others in the house to compare against. I just got a serious workout in 10 minutes of jamming to Mario music. The next day I feel sore in my thighs and arms. It's a harder game than I expected it to be -- but it's also clearly an effective workout in the little time I have.

There are many ways to start a workout routine from home, but nothing feels routine about the daily challenge of juggling work and kids at home. I have a baby that's starting to walk and a toddler bellowing Frozen sing-a-longs between my Zoom meetings. You think there's time for some peaceful meditation session? Or a live-streamed Yoga class appointment? 

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My 3-year-old daughter likes racing through levels in jogging mode, which skips past villain battles that are too advanced for her.

Bridget Carey / CNET

That's why I like these short, effective workouts. My kids can be around me as I dip in, it's fun for them to watch, and there's even a new jogging mode where my 3-year-old can join in on the fun. The jogging mode update allows for players to strap on a controller to their leg and jog in place through fantasy lands without being stopped by enemy battles. We can run past deer in fantastical forests, we get activity indoors, and we both feel accomplished.

The unfortunate side of all of this is that the Ring Fit Adventure game is out of stock — as is the Switch itself — and third-party sellers have jacked up the prices in response to the high demand during home isolation.

I don't think it's worth paying hundreds of dollars for one workout game. But I hope if it's available again at a reasonable price, then this can be a good option for people to consider when they may not want to -- or even can -- go to a gym. We all need to find motivation to workout and stay active in these stressful times. I don't like working out, but for the first time in my life I'm looking forward to it. Nintendo made it fun to feel the burn. 

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