Just Dance may be fun, but is it exercise?

Just Dance, a surprise smash hit for the Wii, might not be marketed as a “fitness” game but I think it can be one heck of a workout.  I decided to put it to the calorie/heart rate test, using my heart rate monitor.  (I know, the calorie counter on heart rate monitors is a huge guess.  My HRM uses age and heart rate plus “exercise factor” on a scale of 1-20.  I set it at 7.)

In Challenge mode, you can play 1, 3, 5 or 10 songs.  Unfortunately they don’t play nonstop back-to-back, unlike the course or endless modes of DDR on PS2 or Xbox.  But if you select automatic instead of manual, the game will choose random songs for you and give you a chance to select the short version for ones you don’t like so much, or full version for ones you love.  I played 5 songs on manual, full-length.  With the warmup added on – the game has a really nice 5-minute warmup to stretch out all those Wiimote-waving muscles – the total workout time was 20 minutes and 23 seconds.  Here are the songs and their numbers.  TZ = target heart rate zone, determined by the HRM using the 220-age formula, since I’m too lazy to do all that resting-metabolism stuff.

1) U Can’t Touch This

Time Max HR TZ >TZ <TZ Calories
3:30 163 1:52 1:26 :12 29

Notes:  This is one of my favorite songs on this game, and it’s a pretty good burner.

2) Cotton Eye Joe

Time Max HR TZ >TZ <TZ Calories
3:04 151 2:04 :49 :11 25

Notes: Hey, I like this song!  Nice long steady-state.

3) Surfin’ Bird

Time Max HR TZ >TZ <TZ Calories
1:56 159 1:07 :44 :05 16

Notes: This party classic is brief but fast. For extra full-body work, get all the way down and do the gator, then get back up!

4) Hot and Cold

Time Max HR TZ >TZ <TZ Calories
3:32 153 1:53 1:33 :06 30

Notes: This is much more upper-body than lower-body, so not as much intensity here.  It’s a good recovery song before the finale…

5) Pump Up The Jam

Time Max HR TZ >TZ <TZ Calories
3:21 170 :29 2:51 0 28

Notes: Pump up the burn!!  My heart rate was at its height, and spent nearly 3 minutes at interval-workout intensity.  Plus, the heavy hip-hop moves are some of the hardest in the game.  I’m still struggling with the move that comes at about :45 in the video.  I just can’t get my knees to waggle back and forth like that.  Oh well, I’m gonna burn while I learn!

So the calorie burn total for 20 minutes (that’s not even counting the warmup) was 128, or 384 per hour.  According to this chart, that is comparable to swimming, easy cycling or brisk walking for a 150-lb person.  Moreover, my max heart rates in Just Dance are as high as I usually get while running or doing an advanced workout video.

Scoring?  I don’t know – I didn’t even pay it any mind.  As far as I’m concerned, Just Dance isn’t even a game; it’s an exercise video that has a much better soundtrack than you’ll find on 99% of American exercise videos, and you can pick and choose what songs to hear.  I would like to see more fitness-related features on the next Just Dance, like player profiles and ability to play songs nonstop.  Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a big seller if it had that eat-your-veggies fitness angle.


Posted on February 25, 2010, in Exergaming, Game reviews, Gameplay, Weight loss and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. This is the game that made me buy a Wii! I played Just Dance at a New Years party and had a BLAST. (The Wii is my first video game system, although I’ve been meaning to get one for a while so I could play DDR.) Thanks for the stats on calorie burn–I’m inspired to conduct my own heart rate testing next time.

  2. I am glad that you did this type of test. This game is awesome – we are testing it in several schools – as a means for a “physical activity” break and the students are loving it – but this is the kind of information that is needed on a “research” level that proves that it is worthy… I am going to link back to your blog from our site so people can see the true benefits of this game. This is great!

  3. Thanks for your comments! Maureen, I’d love to see you and others compare heart rates and calorie burn while playing active games like this – let’s smash the myth that games aren’t “real” exercise. Michelle, I think Just Dance would be fantastic in a PE class or community center. There are no dance pads or other expensive peripherals to set up, just Wiimotes. Great info on your site; keep up the good work!

    (BTW, I just corrected a couple of typos in the numbers on the post. Hope nobody noticed them :o)

  4. This is an awesome game, and the time passes without you even noticing it! I too don’t really care about the scoring, the scoring could be better, but a lot of the times the wiimote doesn’t register as it should or it registers Perfect when you know you’re so far off the mark it makes you laugh, but it really doesn’t matter that much. The game is pure fun… And my favourite song: Le Freak! I love doing le freak!

  5. Thanks for this chart. My middle school phys ed students and I use this and Just Dance 2 around once a month. I am glad it has such terrific health benefits. I figured as much.

    We have a ceiling mounted projector onto a screen mounted 10 feet in the air with a sound system…with the Wii and an Xbox Kinect attached to a system selector.

    4 students play the game while the rest of the class follows along behind as we have 42 squares taped off on our wood floor with floor tape.

    My personal favorite is Vampire Weekend from A-Punk as 40+ students stomping sounds great 🙂 plus you can’t beat the ballet movements in the duet.

    I just found this blog. Keep up the good work as I am always looking for feedback on exergames.

    • Hi Dennis, thanks for visiting! That’s great that you’re using Just Dance 2 and Kinect in your school PE program. I would’ve liked PE a lot more if we had video games.

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