Like 23.2% of the United States population, I barely get any proper exercise. As a remote worker for the past five years, I don't get the walking exercise of a commute. (And now with the pandemic and California fires necessitating wearing a mask outdoors, I go outside in general far less than I used to.) In high school, I was the slowest runner in class, but I still biked to school every day. In college, I dropped my one healthy biking habit because I lived close to campus, and didn't really need to bike anywhere anymore. I've only regressed in the years since. I'm, frankly, very out of shape.
I've always heard about the "runner's high," how endorphins are what makes exercising not just a necessity, but an enjoyable part of the day. In all my attempts at exercising over the years—whether it's taking up sports, going on jogs, yoga—I've always felt miserable for weeks and months on end. The pain I'd feel from exercising repelled me; I never had a good time doing it. The results didn't seem worth feeling miserable all the time. My body could never quite adjust.
Then Ring Fit Adventure came along last year. The latest exercise game from Nintendo, Ring Fit Adventure equips players with a strap for their leg that can hold a Joy-Con, and a pilates ring that can hold a Joy-Con. Together, the Joy-Cons can sense your leg movement, and work out your arms through pushing and pulling the ring. It gets more creative than just squeezing the bendable ring inward too—such as when you're attacked in-game, you do an "ab guard" by pressing the ring against your abs and slightly bending your knees. By its very structure, Ring Fit not only tracks more of your movement than the Wii Balance Board could, but its workouts are also a lot more robust than what we had on Wii Fit.
I got Ring Fit Adventure at launch, played it a couple times, and never touched it again. Doomed to be another Wii Fit Plus-like sampling, I figured that gamified exercise was plainly not motivating enough for me. Nothing could convince me to exercise regularly, I thought. Then San Francisco went on lockdown because of COVID-19 in March, the rest of the country followed, and there sat Ring Fit Adventure in a drawer, taunting me.
It wasn't until this summer when I decided to give Ring Fit Adventure another shot. I dusted off my old work out clothes, strapped on the Joy-Cons, and got to work again. This time, Ring Fit Adventure stuck.
On average, I try to complete a "world" a day, or at least most of one—considering the worlds get bigger the more I progress. Like a world in Super Mario World, Ring Fit Adventure's "story" mode is structured the same way, with some caveats. There are treasure chests to uncover; minigames to play. Full levels have you jogging in place (or squatting, if you have downstairs neighbors) and doing miscellaneous stationary exercises to defeat weight-lifting monsters. The end goal? To overcome Dragaux, the swolest dragon I've ever seen.
The great thing about Ring Fit Adventure is that its exercises aren't confined to just the story mode. Some days, I'll do some separate minigames and a rhythm session (the Splatoon 2 medley is my favorite), ignoring the Adventure part altogether. What's most important is that Ring Fit Adventure is fun and makes me feel like I'm progressing—whether I'm bumping up the difficulty on a day to have a more challenging work out or getting past a boss in a world, and that's what's kept me coming back. When I'm too sore from the day before, I'm sad that it means that I won't be able to push myself as hard in the coming evening of Ring Fit Adventure.
But Nintendo's done the impossible with Ring Fit Adventure: It's made me look forward to exercising after work. For the summer, I've surprisingly kept with it. Considering that it's raining ash in California right now, it's doubly neat that Nintendo's exercise encouragement software is, well, actually encouraging. With exercises that have a lot more to offer compared to Wii Fit back in the Wii days, I'm not alone in being hooked on Ring Fit Adventure. Shortages spread across the world, but Nintendo's since made great strides to meet the demand. I don't foresee myself exiting quarantine with well-toned muscles or abs, but perhaps I'll be able to go on much longer hikes, or even translate my satisfied exercising to something like jogging in the morning eventually.
Of all the hobbies I could have picked up during this self-isolation time, the one I didn't anticipate was something to actually better myself. I've talked to people who have taken up gardening, knitting, and journaling, but exercise via Ring Fit Adventure is something I didn't predict for myself. I don't know if it's the RPG structure that's drawn me in, or the nice pats on the back from Nintendo after a session, but for the considerable future, Ring Fit Adventure has become a mainstay in my routine and it's getting me to exercise nearly every day. And y'know what? Lugging laundry up and down all the flights of stairs in my building isn't the strenuous task it used to be.