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What Burns More Calories — ‘Nintendo Switch Sports,’ or Swatting a Fly?

The games it contains — from volleyball, to soccer, to bowling — are marketed as a way of getting a little exercise while gaming, but that’s more idle chatter than reality

Modern video games offer the dream of being able to exercise in a manner that’s invigorating, yet somehow still so effortless that you never realize that you’ve burned thousands of calories over the course of your thrilling, motion-packed activities. Case in point: The newly released Nintendo Switch Sports is promoted through advertisements featuring every member of the family involved in the gaming activity, being upstanding, friendly and mobile. 

In reality, though, each of the six sports under the Nintendo Switch Sports banner is capable of being played without you even needing to stand, let alone take so much as a single step in any direction. 

Because of this, any attempt to calculate the number of calories burned when playing each of the individual games would require me to estimate the number of calories that can be burned through the accumulation of hundreds of mid-air swipes with a 1.7 ounce (or one-tenth of a pound) controller. Essentially, it would be like trying to approximate how many calories you burn while swatting mosquitoes or applauding during a baseball game.

For instance, no special footwork is required to move your avatar around the volleyball pit during the volleyball game, nor is any lunging required to dig, crouching required to bump or jumping required to spike or block. In fact, the entire bump-set-spike sequence can be completed with three waves of the controller while you sit completely still, sipping a Bahama Mama or munching on a burrito. The same pattern holds true for tennis, which dictates no foot movement of any kind. And bowling doesn’t even mandate you to do any stepping forward to offer a good-faith approximation of an authentic bowling delivery. 

To be honest, I have the same gross disappointment from watching Nintendo Switch Sports being played by expert gamers as I do from watching the World Axe Throwing Championships on ESPN. When you picture a world-class axe thrower in your head, you probably picture a muscular lumberjack or someone who looks like the clear descendant of a viking raider. Instead, you get a whole lot of this — the equivalent of an underhanded free throw attempt:

To be clear, there are certainly Nintendo Switch games — like Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo Fitness Boxing and any of the games in the Just Dance series — that necessitate that you must be upright and mobile to interact with them, and which will provide you with a more than adequate workout if you play them long enough. Nintendo Switch Sports, however, isn’t that game — no matter how much the commercials might want you to believe it is.