Shauna Banks | Photo Illustration

Becoming and staying fit is by far one of the most challenging things a person can undertake in a lifetime. Not only is it a pain in the rear to lose weight and build muscle, but also time consuming to choose and stick to the exercise program that works for a particular person.

Infomercials are sometimes motivating to watch at 2 a.m. when Married with Children syndicated episodes have died down for the night—but those wonder machines and gizmos don’t always cut the mustard. Most times you just have to pick an activity you may enjoy and stick with it.

Cue my Nintendo Wii, and a slew of fitness games made specifically for this console. For some crazy reason, when I bought the thing, I thought Dance Dance Revolution would be a great way to get in that hour of exercise I wanted each day. In the same fitness game family is the series of Just Dance games, which never fail to disappoint, and Zumba Fitness, which blows my mind every time I play it.

Dance Dance Revolution (3 of 5 Stars)
Let’s concentrate on Dance Dance Revolution for a moment. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to have the step-mat (the mat with the arrows) to play it. If you’ve already snagged the Wii balance board from a different game, then you’re good to go.

Having also bought the mat, I can safely say those without the balance and coordination of a tightrope walker, should stick to the balance board. The steps in balance board mode are much easier to follow and allow you to concentrate on moving faster to burn those calories, rather than watching and tripping over your feet the entire time.

No one really likes to see the “miss” bubble pop up every other step do they?

Even if you’ve never played a game before, that small word reappearing so many times can be the cause of death for motivation.

Just Dance (5 of 5 Stars)
For those of us who really just want to dance the calories away, without having to worry if our feet move completely in sync to the music, any of the three Just Dance games are the way to go.

My only criticism between Just Dance 2 and Just Dance 3 (released last year) is that the exercise mode no longer exists on Just Dance 3—which means players cannot track how many songs they’ve danced or how many calories they may have actually burned. However, on the mid- to high-intensity dances, you can burn a little over 200 calories every 30 minutes. Not bad since the game is so entertaining that it never really seems like a workout.

Zumba Fitness (2 of 5 Stars)
I recently bought Zumba Fitness four weeks ago. Perhaps I just need to give it a little more time, but it’s definitely not growing on me. I feel like I’m moving around quite a bit during each song, but the movements are so random and tough to get used to, that I never quite feel like I burn as many calories as I’d like to by the end because I’m too focused on trying to execute the moves correctly.

Then again, if a person is already in pretty decent shape and has a good grasp of Latin dance, I can see where this fitness game might be a tad easier.

Those just jumping into it like myself, and with a little more extra time on their hands would probably be best served by first completing the tutorials mode of the game first to learn the moves to each dance. It all just takes a lot of time and patience—which are both things I can never seem to find enough of.

In the end, if you have the dance skills of Michael Jackson, go for Dance Dance Revolution for a nice workout and bucketful of fun. If you’re trying to get a good amount of cardio in while also jamming to some oldies (but goodies) mixed with modern pop music, any of the Just Dance games are your cup of tea.

If you’re just a dance machine, and also want to learn how to perform different Latin dances, then salsa your way to fitness with Zumba Fitness.

Shauna Banks;