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I never thought I’d be writing the praises of a video game when it comes to fitness and weight loss, but here goes: “Dance Dance Revolution” — available for PlayStation 1 and 2, as well as Xbox — is a fun way to get an aerobic workout.

There are a couple different versions of the game, including an arcade version, but they all share the same basic goals. You stand on a dance platform and/or pad that features nine squares, sort of like a tic tac toe board. On the TV screen in front of you, arrows tell you where and when to step, in time with music.

After seeing several news stories about teenagers dropping 30 or more pounds as a result of playing the game, I had to check it out myself. Ninety minutes into my first (clumsy) attempt, I had worked up a heck of a sweat and was shocked to see how much time had passed. I would have kept playing, too, if I hadn’t had other obligations.

“Playing” is the operative word here. I didn’t feel like I was merely putting in time exercising — I was actually playing, and as a bonus had given myself a moderate aerobic workout. “DDR” would be an excellent activity for kids or teenagers who don’t necessarily enjoy sports and who otherwise would be sitting on the couch or, for that matter, anyone who enjoys music and dancing.

The newest release of the game, “DDR Max 2,” features a workout mode that tracks how many calories you’ve burned, compares your exertion level to running, swimming, and biking, and also allows you to program your workout based on your own unique goals. Say you want to burn 250 calories — the program will continue until you attain your goal. Or you can just dance nonstop.

The game also will improve coordination because you have to be able to time the movements of your feet with the arrows on the screen and the beat of the music. The game isn’t easy, and “DDR Max 2” offers both “lesson” and “training” modes to help you conquer the techniques, and then different songs.

Unless you are ready to attempt “DDR” in “heavy” mode — and if you’re like me, it’ll take a long time (if ever) before you get there — the workout intensity provided by “DDR” is in the low to moderate range. That’s good, because it means you can play the game longer without getting overly fatigued.

To play “DDR,” you need a game console, a special dance pad (which range in price from $29 to well over $100 — the lower-priced Konami pad is fine to start out with), and the game. The Web site www.ddrfreak.com offers tips on buying equipment as well as inside tricks to get better at playing the game.

Here are some tips to keep your game playing healthy and productive:

• Drink plenty of water, and keep some nearby to sip between songs.• Warm up and cool down. Begin and end your game playing with lower-intensity songs.• Be ambidextrous. Try not to overuse one foot while playing the game.• Get the other foot into the action!• Wear cushiony shoes, preferably aerobic or cross-trainer sneakers that provide lateral support.

—Wendy Watkins is a writer and personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Send your questions to fitness@stripes.osd.mil.


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