Be Fit With Biray

Your guide to Exercising the Web

$ocial Media For Dollar$

August 13, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be Connected, Be Mobile, Be Online

I presented a session at IDEA World Health and fitness convention called “Social Media For Dollars”. And while there are debates on whether or not one can directly make money using social media tools, there is no doubt about being able to develop business and marketing strategies and tailoring fitness programs to a social media-savvy culture.

Here were a few ideas we discussed in the session:

*NEW* Fitness Podcasting Blog

August 09, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be in Tune

I’ve created a new blog in anticipation of my new book “Fitness Podcasting: Giving Fitness Professionals a Voice!” (which comes out sometime in October 2010).

This blog will be a great resource for any fitness professional who is interested in learning more about podcasting and its benefits in complementing fitness programming and its potential in increasing exercise adherence!

Podcast. Play. Peace!

Club One Ventures into Second Life

March 25, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be Online

Finally a fitness facility bold enough to ‘officially’ go where many avatars have gone before – Second Life!

As the ‘unofficial’ Health and Wellness Correspondent in Second Life, I have Kix Kayamanu has always talked about the potential of fitness professionals sharing their expertise and education in a virtual environment. People (or in this case, avatars) who may not otherwise enter a gym or be drawn to traditional fitness programs may find this space a much more welcoming place to engage with personal trainers.

While the concept of virtual fitness in Second Life has had slow adoption rates, Club One is attempting to lead the way in investing their efforts in the virtual space.

Check out the video below that highlights some of Club One’s Second Life amenities:

What I like most about their approach is their focus on behavior change. Not only are they recognizing the importance of education in a 3D space, but they are also stressing that behavior change begins from having increased knowledge and self-efficacy. In essence, those who engage in virtual activities and imagine themselves participating in these behaviors will ultimately make a smoother transitions into real world fitness. At least that’s the theory.

Just imagine those who may be intimidated by personal trainers or exercise physiologists, having the opportunity to ask questions and explore their own health and fitness in an environment that is familiar and comfortable to them!

It is still hard to say how many ‘avatars’ will take to this concept or how many fitness professionals will be equipped with the instructional skills to educate and train in a TRUE virtual environment. But, as for me and my alter-ego Kix Kayamanu, we will certainly do our best to support their efforts and keep you posted of their progress!

Healthy People 2010

March 12, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be Fit 'Round da World, Be Mobile, Be Online

Left to Right: Jennifer, Ernie, Biray, Genevieve

Earlier this week I attended the Health People 2010 conference in Loma Linda University in California. I was asked by Dr. Ernie Medina, MD and “exergaming evangelist” (and LLU alum) to be part of a panel on “Technology and Behavior Change”. Ernie was moderator and other panelists included Jennifer Shapiro, PhD (Scientific Director, SanTech) and Genevieve Dunton, Phd (Assistant Professor of Research, Department of Preventive Medicine, USC).

Dr. Shapiro discussed an interesting pilot research based on her company’s Text4Diet program (see her full abstract here) where participants were sent SMS/text messages during a weight-loss intervention. The results showed that those who received text-messages during their intervention lost up to 6lbs over the control group. Since text-messaging is such a personal way to reach people, it just goes to show you how it can be effectively utilized to influence people’s decision to make healthier choices throughout their day.

Dr. Dunton’s research was a bit different. It was more of an observational study about children’s level of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in their natural settings. Her research team used mobile phones as a tool to ask and gather data via text-messaging. For more on her research, check out the full abstract here.

My presentation was about how internet use influences behavior change (full session description here). The messages we receive, the social networks we participate in and the content we create online all play a role in how we adopt and maintain certain behaviors (good or bad). With so much of our image/identity being blurred between our online and offline presence, it is important to understand not just the tools available online – but the culture surrounding those tools.

Overall, it was a great conference. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend a lot of the sessions because I was in-out within 24 hours (and those cross-country flights ate up all my time!). As always, it was a pleasure to catch up with my exergaming colleagues, Ed and Tommy, from Exergame Fitness who also showed their support at the conference!

Can You Spare A Minute?

March 10, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be Mobile

I recently checked out Mobile Net Workout a service that challenges you to get up and move by sending you exercise prompts via SMS or email at schedule times throughout the week. Each prompt comes with a 1-minute exercise challenge (with video on how to perform the exercise). Your job: do the exercise, asap. Then, check it off as done! Simple as that! The idea is: everyone has 1 minute in their day to move – so get up and move it!

The service is $2.99/month and is pre-loaded with 8 different workout programs, each varying from 13 to 38 different one-minute exercises. The programs range from beginner to advance, and they consist of exercises that mostly challenge your muscular strength and flexibility. Once you select a program based on your fitness level and goals, then you can schedule how many ‘challenges’ (i.e. 1-minute exercises) you want to receive throughout the day/week.

I chose the “Total Body Moderate” program because it was recommended as the first workout people go into. I planned my schedule so I could get 3 challenges (or exercises) during my lunch time, and 1 challenge in the mornings over the weekend (I know, I’m lazy, aren’t I? LOL).  And then waited for my challenges to come… Bring it on, MNW! Woot… Woot!

My prompts arrived in my inbox like clockwork. The first few times I enjoyed the random exercise challenges – pushups, plank holds, plies on toes. Then, I started forgetting to do them (mostly because I was in the middle of a project or a conference call). I kept saying I’d get to it in a minute (oh, the irony) but then never ended up going back. (Can you blame me, I’m human!) I eventually changed my settings to receive my 3 challenges throughout the day, instead of all at once. That made things less overwhelming, but I still missed a few here and there. (Ssh… don’t tell)

My thoughts: I think MNW is on the right track in terms of mobile-related fitness services. A minute here, a minute there… every bit of activity counts! This service is especially great for those who have procrastinated starting an exercise plan. You probably won’t turn into a body-builder by doing a few lunch-time lunges, but MNW will help keep fitness on your mind in small doses (even if you don’t complete the exercise challenges). I know I found myself reminded to be more active every time MNW sent me a prompt.

PROS: This is a great tool for people who do not have any fitness equipment or belong to a gym. Most of the exercises can be done quickly by using your body’s resistance. The videos are articulate and the exercise challenges are fun (and doable). The concept is very unique and definitely aligns with current trends of integrating fitness with technology at an affordable price.

CONS: Because the programs are pre-created, it does not account for any specific injury or exercise preference. What if you simply don’t like pushups? What if your knee is bothering you that day? At the very least, a user should have control whether or not an exercise should be removed from the rotation. Site navigation is a bit clunky and confusing – it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what a user is supposed to do once they’ve sign up.

Mobile Net Workout also has a social networking component so you can be ‘friends’ and interact with other users on the site. While I understand the motivational concept behind having friends complete challenges with you, I didn’t really feel compelled to connect with anyone on the site. Most profiles were incomplete. Plus, I couldn’t search for ‘friends’ according to which program they were on or by their location – doesn’t give me much of a starting point for a conversation. Perhaps this site is still too new to tell if this feature will be effective. However, sites like DailyBurn and DailyMile have nailed the “social networking in fitness” concept much better. And without a Facebook or Twitter integration, I have no interest trying to get my friends to log into *ANOTHER* site with me.

Mobile Net Workout is certainly one of many new ventures leading the way in how fitness professionals should be thinking as they move their products and programs into the next decade of fitness services! I look forward to seeing how they evolve over the next year.

Going From Game back to Exercise (Again)

January 19, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game

I was called upon to be the ‘exergaming expert’ for a mainstream magazine for 20/30-somethings. The article’s focus was on using the Wii for exercise. Some of the questions the journalist asked me got me thinking more about the misconceptions people still have about exergames.

During the course of my interview, I made a few interesting observations. The question came up about how to ‘enhance’ game play for the Wii in order to elicit greater health benefits. Enhance, as in, what additional things beyond the scope of game design would I recommend. Or, another way of putting it, what other (non-virtual, non-exergaming) activities would I suggest to complement the benefits of game play. So, if a game elicited a higher cardio response (as most games do, unless they include some form of weight-training exercises), would I recommend a session of weight-training or yoga as a complement to the game? Or, could strapping on a set of wrist weights during game play (shudder!), doing a set of sit-ups while a new level is loading, or wearing a heart rate monitor actually improve a player’s fitness outcomes?

As I was pondering my answers, I started realizing that these questions had nothing to do with exergaming. They were all about comprehensive fitness program design. The exergame just happened to be one of the activities in an exercise regimen. It was no different than if I were asked “would adding swimming to my workout enhance my treadmill exercises?” Sure, cross-training improves overall cardiovascular fitness. And swimming may, on some level, improve your performance on the treadmill. But a session of swimming does not directly change the current treadmill workout. (Unless, of course, you put your treadmill in the water. But then you run the risk of either watering-down the treadmill workout, or simply drowning in it).

When answering the journalists questions, I tried to keep the readers of the magazine in mind. This was a young, mostly female, wii-savvy with an active lifestyle-type audience.  In other words, if the weather was too cold to play real tennis outside, they would play Wii Tennis inside. I imagined, they probably already had gym memberships, fitness DVDs or were the types willing to try new exercises. They probably owned a few fitness exergames (EA sports, Biggest Loser, Jillian Michael’s bootcamp, Your Shape), which are glorified workout DVDs more in-line with traditional fitness activities. This was the audience who would probably get a kick out of doing a lunge matrix off the Wii-Balance board or adding 2lb weights to their hand-held controllers. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this, mind you (but they probably would jump at the opportunity to use an underwater treadmill, too).

But are articles like this doing exergames a disservice? Does it send the message to fitness enthusiasts: playing these games is not enough, you have to add something more. Does it send a message to the game designers: people are outgrowing your games, make more? Or, is it missing the mark completely. What message does it send to the people who really need to be active: you can’t escape exercise, be it at the gym or during game play, at some point you’ll have to do a sit-up.

When did game play go back to being exercise, again? Why are people not focused more on promoting the game play aspects of these games? Stop talking about how these games burn calories or its cardiovascular benefits or, gasp, how to make it more challenging! Everytime a sedentary person associates these games with exercise, we, as a health industry lose their interest! It’s a game, first! The health-benefits are built-in.

EA Sports Active Uses the term “Gateway”

December 28, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game

EA Sports Active

I was watching TV the other night when a commercial for EA Sports Active came on. Now, EA Sports Active launched in early 2009 and continues to build its community and workout options for its consumers. So the commercial was no surprise. However, I noticed something in its marketing that was slightly different than how other exergames or active game products are being promoted. During the commercial, the voice-over actually stated that this game was “a gateway to an active lifestyle” (or something to that effect). In other words, THEY USED THE WORD GATEWAY!

You’re probably wondering why this is a big deal. I’ll tell you.

For the longest time one of the major criticisms of exergaming (especially from the fitness professionals) was that it could never replace ‘real’ or ‘traditional’ exercise. This argument came at a time when researchers were studying the physiological responses of game play (primarily in terms of energy expenditure) and comparing them to traditional cardiovascular exercises. While these comparisons were only meant to validate exergames as a viable form of physical activity, fitness pros were skeptical in promoting these games that were, in essence, doing trying to do their jobs.

Exergame evangelists and researchers knew that exergames were not the same as ‘traditional exercise’, but somehow this idea was diluting, if not, discrediting the exergaming industry. So, in health conferences, game conferences and games for health conferences, people started to emphasize the terms “gateway effect” as one of the effects of exergames – as if to say, these games helped build confidence and self-efficacy with those who may otherwise never try typical fitness activities. Hence, exergames have a gateway effect to an active lifestyle.

I imagine when marketers create a campaign for exergames, they are focused more on selling product than developing a lifestyle. I doubt they’ll ever say “come try our product for a while so you can build the confidence to go do other activities and in turn stop using our product”. Hencewhy the term ‘gateway’ may not be applicable in this arena. Unless… unless the gateway is to other activities or games that the company also provides.

So, when I heard the EA Sports Active’s commercial insert the term ‘gateway’ into their commercial (albeit ever-so subtly and in the middle portion of the commercial), I was caught off-guard. Because by saying that it means two things: 1) Someone on their marketing team certainly has their pulse on the exergaming scene – maybe they are sending people out to various conferences, etc. and 2) EA Sports is expanding their services beyond just their games, to build an active brand and community so people who are ‘gateway’ing into an active lifestyle are doing so with EA Sports Active by their side.

Exergame Experts wish you “healthy holidays” with Video Games

December 21, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game

(Re-Blogged with permission by The Exergame Network)

The holiday season is always a health rollercoaster. We eat too much, watch too much TV and exercise too little and then make New Years resolutions that we can’t keep. This year, make a change with Exergaming. The Exergame Network (TEN) reveals five ways of getting fit with video games, perfect for school kids to silver gamers with fun as the focus!

The good news for these holidays is you can over-indulge in fitness and fun by Exergaming. Exergaming is the combination of video games and exercise, ideal for a fun, social way to keep fit during the festive period. The Exergame Network brings you five Exergaming methods to suit everyone regardless of their age, ability or fitness level.

Most health and fitness resolutions revolve around dieting and joining a gym, but this doesn’t work for everyone. So what about the rest of us, those that dislike gyms, dieting, boot camps or just find conventional fitness boring?

idancekidsExergaming succeeds because it makes exercise fun and involving. The exercise seems less difficult and second to the enjoyment of playing. Choosing the right style of Exergaming is vital in making it fun for you! The following CREWS list is a ’something for everyone’ selection from five Exergaming catagories (for an interactive tour visit CREWS ):

1. Camera Exergaming – Your whole body becomes the controller as your movements are motion captured into the game (Eyetoy:Kinetic/Groove/Antigrav, Your Shape, Project Natal & Trazer 2)

2. Rhythm Exergaming – Become the musician or dancer and be guided by the music while the exergame records your dance steps or your musical timing. (Rock Band, Guitar Hero, We Cheer, DDR & iDANCE)

3. Exergaming Machines – Using real fitness equipment, the fun of the games takes your mind of the exercise. (Gamercize, Gamebike, Fitclub, GameCycle, BrainBike & Expresso Bikes)

4. Workout Exergaming – Follow your virtual personal trainer as they guide you through your workout giving feedback on your form and storing your progress. (EA Sports Active, The Biggest Loser, Your Shape and Wii Fit Plus)

5. Sensory Exergaming – These commercial exergames get you jumping and running for your score. (Lightspace Play, Makoto, BodyPad: Tekken 5, SmartUs & TWall)

T.E.N. reminds you to think of ‘CREWS’ as an amazing way to engage, motivate and sustain exercise over your lifetime! To discover more about Exergaming, get practical advice and more information from TEN or connect with us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook . Now enjoy what some of the leaders on Exergaming have to say and how Exergaming can truly benefit everyone!

“Exergaming Machines are a time saving way to keep me fit. Last week I clocked up over 9 hours of genuine cardio, just by playing the latest Xbox release! It is important that everyone finds the Exergaming method that works for them, if you enjoy the activity there’s more chance of keeping at it and reaching the fitness benefits. Nothing kept in the back of the cupboard will improve health.” Richard Coshott, Gamercize Founder and CEO.

“People who normally don’t like to be physically active are willing to try Exergaming because it’s FUN. Parents tell me that this is the first time they’ve seen their kids sweat this much…and they don’t want to stop playing the exergames! Exergaming is the best intervention for the “couch potato”, and introduces physical activity that’s fun for the first time in their lives.” Ernie Medina, Jr., DrPH, CHFS, preventive care specialist, Beaver Medical Group; CEO & “Exergaming Evangelist”, MedPlay Technologies.

“In Physical Education, we strive to provide a safe and positive learning environment that supports the needs and abilities of our students. Exergaming, in its many forms, is available in schools (before and after-school), at home, and in the community and thus has the potential to impact students.” Stephen Yang, Ph.D-ABD, M.S., B.S., Co-Director ExerGame Lab, Assistant Professor, State University of New York College at Cortland.

“Exergaming offers an alternative method of increasing heart-rate and building muscle bulk for those with disabilities. Real-world boxing, for example, offers an excellent aerobic workout for many able-bodied individuals, however is impossible for many with disabilities. Video-game based boxing, however, allows for simulated boxing with an avatar that is safe and achievable, while simultaneously being aerobically challenging. ” Sheryl Flynn PT, PhD, Co-Founder


TEN is a not-for-profit and non-affiliated Games for Health advocacy promoting an active and healthy lifestyle by combining video games technologies and exercise, known as Exergaming. Exergaming is proving to be an excellent way to increase motivation, energy expenditure and overall fitness. TEN is a collaboration of dedicated health and fitness practitioners, exergame developers, researchers and clinicians, health and fitness entrepreneurs and passionate individuals devoted to highlighting the best solutions offered by exergaming.

IDEA World Fitness Convention – 2009

August 11, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Connected, Be Fit 'Round da World, Be in the Game, Just Be Fit

One of the reasons I return to IDEA conferences year after year is because their vision really resonates with me: “To Inspire the World To Fitness!” Every time I go, I am motivated by the energy of my fellow attendees, challenged by the new perspectives of my colleagues, and lured into buying stuff at the expo (though I’ll try not to spend any money this year – LOL).

Although I will be attending as presenter this year, I am looking forward to being educated, as well. So often we are wrapped up in our own field that we neglect to follow-up on research in other areas. Since exergaming and fitness technology are the main focus points of this blog, I often enjoy going to sessions that complement my knowledge – such as, lectures on stress & nutrition, workshops on creating successful boot camps, and cycling workouts that make me sweat.

This year I will be presenting the following sessions:

#105 and #185: R-KAIDE: The Newest Way To Score Points (Workout) (co-presenter Fred Hoffman)
#405: From R-KAIDE to the Aerobics Room: Video Games Get Active (Workshop) (co-presenter Fred Hoffman)

#248: Blogging Basics (Lecture)
#278: Marketing Your Blog in All the Right Places (Lecture)

#474: Managing a Multi-Generational Staff (Panel with Amanda Vogel and Fred Hoffman)

Over the next few days, I will be blogging my adventures here. Feel free to join me there!

Drawing Parallels between Web 2.0 and Games for Health

June 08, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Fit 'Round da World, Be in the Game

This week I will be attending the 5th Annual Games For Health Conference and have created a complementary blog to document all the exciting events!

I will also be delivering a short-short presentation about the similarities between Web 2.0 and Games for Health audiences and platforms. Below is a description of my session:

How do certain Web 2.0 technologies impact people’s health and fitness decisions? Are the audiences who spend hours of screen time in online destinations like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Second Life similar to the audiences who are drawn to exergaming and other games for health? Which outcomes from playing video games parallel those who micro-blog, engage in online social networks and nurture their avatars in virtual worlds? As programmers and researchers, what can we learn from making these observations?

Since the advent of broadband technology and the increased prevalence of wireless networks, the web has evolved into a powerful, interactive and ‘real-time’ environment – allowing content to be much more user-centric and user-generated. And because of this shift in digital culture, more fitness professionals are embracing online tools to create everything from fitness podcasts to cyber coaching sessions.

The objective of this brief, informal session is to bring these ideas to the forefront of our conversations, as they relate to games for health. More research is needed in this area and potential collaborative efforts could benefit from having gaming/web-based hybrids.