The human brain is a fascinating thing. So easily distracted, so easily excited. Yes, I have a new home fitness wheeze; a boxing game on a Nintendo Switch. If I had burned a calorie for every moment I spent procrastinating setting it up, because I’m intimidated by wires, I’d look like a painting by Egon Schiele. In the end, my son did it for me, and my daughter – the nine-year-old, the quitter, the horse riding natural – badgered me into trying it. You can do it with two players. That, right there, makes it stratospherically more likely that you’ll get around to it than, say, a home-yoga video. There is something about exercising alone at home that feels preposterous and saps the spirit.
The game is extremely user-friendly, as in, it’s hard to misunderstand what’s going on once you’ve installed it, and starts with a warm-up. Like an advert on the internet, you can’t skip it; so you may as well do it. In the end, even though it proved that my concentration span is slightly shorter than that of a nine-year-old, it was fine.
There is a tutorial on the boxing, which, now I’ve notched up quite a few hours at the bellicose sport, struck me as adequate: there was none of the confusing stuff – twist your wrist, punch fast like a striking snake, always cover your face with your punching fist while you’re not using it – but plenty of the actual fitness stuff: always be dancing back and forwards on your toes.
From then on, it’s targets: stars travel up the screen, you throw a punch at them and score a “perfect”, an “OK” or a “miss”. It’s pretty intense; if, like me, you can’t work out the difference between a perfect and an OK, it operates as random reinforcement, an unknowable test of skill and strength. The quitter was much better than me, with faster reactions; which I suppose means it’s not measuring strength, because I am huge and she is tiny.
Once you have a target, and it’s moving, all you want to do is punch it. The bouts last only as long as your average pop song – which you can choose, but you have to unlock points if you really like Ariana Grande. We easily did five or six songs every time, sometimes 10. Calorie usage isn’t huge – the most either of us burned in one round was 26. Aerobically, it’s probably about as tiring as dancing, and less tiring than running.
The gamification is the clincher: it feels like playing Super Mario without the confusing graphics, and not like self-improvement at all. You feel it in your arms the next day, but nowhere else: if I worked on my footwork, I might get a more complete workout.
If you want to do a workout without leaving the house (maybe you’ve lost your keys or are agoraphobic) you wouldn’t normally choose cardio: it takes so much self-belief to gate off your sense of the absurd. But this made me forget to feel ridiculous altogether.
Fitness Boxing, £39.99, nintendo.co.uk
What I learned
You can also get a Wipeout fitness game, which is a genuinely hilarious caper, dodging dinosaurs and icebergs and suchlike.