As you prepare for the holiday season and your particular traditions (excising the evil spirits from Aunt Belinda's fruit cake, anyone?), the search for perfect Christmas gifts can become as frantic and perilous as a game of Call of Duty.
If you have a fitness fanatic on your list - or need a polite way to tell a loved one that his gut looks like Santa's - why not pick up one of the latest at-home workout games? Popular gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect let you ditch the controller and transform your living room into a cardio chamber. Most games have fun, challenge-based components to them, which will help make fitness enjoyable for all ages and experience levels.
Not all of these at-home games are created equal, of course. Some are much more physically challenging than others and will do a far better job giving your body the workout it needs. Belinda won't burn the butter off her buns with a light and easy jam, after all.
Let's take a quick look at the at-home workout games on the market and rate them according to their intensity level.
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum
If you're a fan of Biggest Loser, you've likely heard of Jillian Michaels. Actually, unless you live in a cave in Borneo, you've likely heard of Jillian Michaels. (Even then...) This celebrity drill sergeant is now whipping the masses into shape with her own series of fitness games. These games focus more on regular fitness movements. They're best for someone looking for a traditional workout but in need of guidance.
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum is set on a tropical island where you follow Jillian as she leads you through a number of innovative exercises that challenge your muscular strength, aerobic capacity and flexibility.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympics
Mario and Sonic at the Olympics opens the chutes for the inner-athlete champing at the bit. This game qualifies you for the opportunity to compete in a wide variety of activities, including track and field, archery, table tennis and gymnastics.
Compete on your own or with friends. This is a great game to play with a group, family, or that strange cousin you'd prefer not to converse with. Choose your favorite characters from the Super Mario or Sonic The Hedgehog games for fast-paced workouts that'll keep your heart rate up and competitive energy amped.
Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 2
You know that crazy girl who was always flailing her arms and trying to stamp out imaginary fires on the floor? Probably not - but now you can have her workout! Sure, her hair was a mess, but she had tight glutes...
Seriously, for anyone who loves to dance, or wants to work on their "sick" moves, this game is a must. DDR lit up arcades across the world with flashing lights and sweating teens, moving quick feet to the beat of pop/techno/dance music.
If you have any degree of coordination, you can complete the dance steps easily; you definitely don't have to be a pro dancer to participate. In fact, the less skilled you are, the better the workout becomes! Don't slow down - you've got to keep tearing up the floor like it's 2029.
Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party 2 improves coordination, builds mind-muscle connections, and provides an intense cardiovascular workout. You really have to think on your feet and move with the music. Play it to win for best results.
Big Beach Sports
For those into summer sports, Big Beach Sports should draw your sun-splashed interest. Set on a beach, you have a choice to play cricket, soccer, football, disc golf or bocce ball.
Play alone, with a partner, or with a small group. This game will get your heart pumping and work a number of different muscles in the body. It offers enough variety to keep you interested for an extended time, allowing for longer workouts and better results.
This strangely addictive cyber game allows you to become a world-class golfer without ever leaving your couch. Well, okay, you're probably going to have to stand up. But Wii Golf allows you to get a real-life golf feel from the comfort of your living room. It works all the muscles in the shoulders, back and core.
What is the only drawback to this game? Much of the (limited) calorie burn you experience in real golf comes from walking to each hole. Since you're basically stationary, you won't exert that effort playing this game. Of course, you could combine Wii Golf with your own improvised version of DDR, though we wouldn't recommend getting that crazy.
While it involves some physical activity, Wii Golf ranks fairly low in terms of boosting your fitness level and burning calories. On the enjoyment scale, for golf fanatics, it can't be beat.
Wii Fit Yoga
If you're looking for a game to relax and rejuvenate while building your core strength, Wii Fit Yoga might be the perfect gift. The game takes you through a series of different yoga-based movements that test your balance, coordination and level of muscular endurance.
Wii Fit Yoga offers stress relief to families and singles leading busy lives, and it is a much more convenient option than paying for pricey yoga classes.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012
The last game on our list of actives is Pro Evolution Soccer. If you're a soccer player or fan, this game delivers your daily dose of the "Beautiful Game" while getting you in shape at the same time. The game develops leg strength and power. It definitely won't burn as many calories as it would if you were on a real field, but it is one of the more intense games you can play on the Wii gaming system. And you can play year round.
This is one game you will want to play in a large, open space in order to get the best possible results. Hit your in-home football pitch and crush the black-and-white!