10 exercises you can do while playing video games


If you feel like you need to get moving more, that doesn’t mean that you need to neglect your valuable geek hobbies. It’s totally possible to burn fat and build muscle and stay out of the gym at the same time.

In fact, it’s possible to get a decent workout and play video games simultaneously. Sure, you’re not going to get ripped like The Rock, but you can absolutely make progress towards a fitness goal and level up your paladin at the same time. There are easy-to-learn exercises that take minimal equipment — maybe put a towel down to soak up the sweat, and you’re good to go — as well as some games that actually require you to get moving.

Disclaimer: don’t start any exercise regimen without consulting a doctor first, and we don’t mean the time-traveling kind. If your body hasn’t enjoyed a workout since gym class, get a checkup before you get started.

Seated scissors

Most of these exercises are going to be done from a sitting position and require you to have a straight back and an engaged core (basically, suck your guts in without curving your back). From that position, extend your legs straight out in front of you like they were a tabletop to rest a Virtual Boy on. Then open and close them back and forth like a pair of scissors. This should take intense effort to maintain the posture, so do it during a cutscene or while the game is loading.

Ab squeezes

Isometric exercises aren’t going to give you much in the way of cardio, but they can gradually tighten and tone under-used muscles, especially in your core. One workout that’s easy to do when playing any sort of game is an ab squeeze, which involves sitting straight (good posture is something you should be aware of while gaming for a number of reasons) and contracting your upper and lower stomach in on itself, holding, then releasing. For best results, do this with slow, controlled squeezes, not fast ones.

The Zombies Run logo.

Credit: Zombies Run


Yes, we know you’re no filthy casual, but there are actually a few smartphone apps that gamify exercise in interesting ways. Previously called Zombies, Run!, ZRX puts you in the well-worn sneakers of a survivor after the walking dead rise to snack on brains. You listen to “missions” through your headphones and go for runs in the real world, picking up the pace when the undead get on your tail.

But it’s not just audio – completing these missions earns you resources that you can use to fortify your base and play the game’s other content. With over 10 million downloads, this one’s obviously pretty successful.

If zombies aren’t your thing, ZRX now also includes Marvel Move, offering a similar superhero-themed game.

Wall sit

Just changing the way you sit while you game can engage muscles you didn’t even know you had. Get up off the couch and place your back flat against the wall with your upper legs parallel to the floor, knees over your ankles, feet shoulder width apart. This engages your quadriceps something fierce, so don’t expect to do it for more than a minute at a time. The good news is that you’ll be so focused that paying attention to your game will actually help you endure the muscle tension.

Arm extensions

This is another one that you have to do when the action on-screen isn’t quite so frantic, but they’re great for anything turn-based. After you’ve put in your orders in XCOM or finished a cycle in Civilization, take your hands and let them hang at your knees. Raise them to your shoulders, and then out to a T position, and back down to your sides. Then do it in reverse and by the time you’re finished the AI should be done cogitating, and you can take another turn.

Dance Dance Revolution

Konami’s rhythm action game isn’t as popular as it once was, but there are literally hundreds of testimonials from people who have used it to shed unwanted pounds. Because physical movement is so inextricably linked to your success or failure on each song, there’s literally no way to do well in the game without exercising. Well, that is, unless you play on a controller, but who does that if they’re capable of using their legs? You can easily and cheaply buy a DDR pad for most of the last-generation consoles, and there are freeware alternatives for PCs as well. Hope you don’t have downstairs neighbors, though.


These are great for engaging your core and giving yourself a full-body workout, plus you can keep your eyes on the TV because it’s better for your neck to keep it straight. Starting from a standing position, come down to a squat with your knees over your ankles and your butt back. Keep your spine as straight as possible, bending forward with your arms extended out in front of you. Pay attention to your knees when you do exercises like this, and when they start to ache give it a rest.

A screenshot from Missile Wars.

Credit: Missile Wars / Geek

Stationary bicycling

If you don’t live in a cramped apartment, the absolute best exercise you can get while you game is pedaling a sturdy stationary bicycle. (It doesn’t have to be a Peloton.)

Set one up in front of your battlestation, fire up a game that’s fast-paced and exciting but doesn’t require a lot of precision (hack and slashers like the Dynasty Warriors series are great for this, as are arcade racing games and shoot-em-ups), and pedal your heart out. Make a deal with yourself that you’re only allowed to play games when you’re riding the bike and you’ll see your cardio improve and the pounds melt away.

Controller figure eights

Typically you’d do this exercise with a pillow in both hands, but a DualShock or similar wireless gamepad will work just as well. Sit with your arms stretched out in front of you, holding the controller in a typical gamer’s grip. Then lift your legs straight out as well and move the controller in a figure 8 motion, with the points of the eight at each of your hips. This will engage your core in a pretty intense way, so you might not be able to do it for long. If you get pain in your lower back, release your legs, so your feet touch the floor. That’ll move the stretch out of that area.


Virtual reality is changing the way we game, so it might as well change the way we exercise, too. HTC Vive owners have reported some pretty great aerobic workouts from frantic action title HoloBall. The basic play is simple – it’s a Pong-alike that uses all four walls of the virtual space, keeping you moving around constantly as you struggle to return shots. This won’t target any major muscle groups, but it’s a solid cardio upper. It’s also available for PSVR and Oculus Rift if you have either platform.

This story originally appeared on Geek.

UPDATE: Dec. 4, 2023, 1:32 p.m. AEDT This article was originally published in Apr. 2020, and has since been updated in Dec. 2023.

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