Microsoft releases free Kinect PlayFit, the Xbox 360 dashboard that tracks calories burned as you play

Microsoft has added a free fitness application to its Xbox Live line-up that helps track calories burnt while playing Kinect games.

Kinect PlayFit is a hub through which gamers can see exactly how much energy they are using when playing games such as Dance Central 2 and Kinect Star Wars.

It also awards new achievements to players who reach certain fitness goals, and features a global leaderboard to help encourage them to exercise more in order to rise up the chart. There are daily statistics to help a gamers keep track of their progress, and to compare how they are doing with friends (or the general public, if they choose that option).

To support its launch, Microsoft has revealed that a recent survey undertaken by UnitedHealth Group (of 1,015 adults aged 18 or over) claims that almost 75 per cent of respondents believe video games should include a component that encourages physical activity - something Kinect PlayFit is specifically designed to do.

So far, 10 Kinect games are compatible with PlayFit. Some are obvious, such as Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012, Kinect Sports Season Two, Dance Central 2, Let's Cheer! and Deepak Chopra's Leela, while kids can also get involved through Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster. Finishing the line up are the aforementioned Kinect Star Wars, Xbox Arcade game Happy Action Theatre, and the Kinect Fun Labs title Junk Fu.

Kinect PlayFit is available to Xbox Live subscribers for free from the Apps section of the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

Do you think it's a good idea to encourage physical fitness goals through gaming? Let us know in the comments below...