If the invention of TV remote controls and video games ushered in the couch potato lifestyle, could a similar device rescue us?
Nintendo’s Wii Fit, which debuted in late 2006, has grown in popularity, but is it a brilliant rescue device for the overfed, a novelty that will soon fade in popularity, or a clever motivator that appeals to the addictive and/or competitive personality?
Betting on the fact that Americans love their TVs (the average American spends 19-25 hours per week in front of the screen!), Nintendo fashioned Wii Fit with a little competitive edge to keep your interest with the addictive qualities of a video game.
Depending on the activity you choose (Wii has tennis, baseball, boxing, bowling & golf, and the upgrade Wii Fit features weight lifting, aerobics, yoga, jogging, hula hoop, ski jumping, rhythm boxing and step aerobics), you might be holding a wand-like device about the size of a remote control or wearing wrist bands while standing on a surfboard-like balance board in front of your TV. You simulate the movements and force of whatever activity you are playing and the game console translates it onto an animated picture on your TV screen.
So, does it work?
Research shows the majority of people report they get a great work out from the Wii, but measuring their output doesn’t back up their perception.* While they may be working harder than if they were playing a regular video game, their calorie-burning numbers were nowhere near the range they’d achieve actually playing the real game.
For instance, Wii Boxing burns 216 calories in 30 minutes, about 51 calories more than walking. Real sparring would burn over 300 calories so the Wii numbers are about 2/3 of what you’d burn actually doing the sport.*
Yoga and strength training have a virtual 3D personal trainer so you can view what you’re attempting from every angle in real time, but the aerobics and balance games are less structured. When you reach benchmarks, new difficulty levels become available.
Another game, Ubisoft’s My Weight Loss Coach, is a computerized accounting of food intake and activity output.
1. Many people report the Wii encouraged them to try activities they ordinarily would not attempt.
2. The games are simple to use and done in the privacy of your living room.
3. It may be a stepping stone to more effective gym workouts.
4. Many users report using it more when it’s prominently displayed in the living room and hard to ignore.
1. You might get stuck in a low-intensity rut and not even know it.
2. The games provide no “real life” monitoring or attention from trained personnel – don’t try it if you have health problems or tend to visit the chiropractor often.
3. Once the novelty wears off, it becomes just another expensive piece of equipment gathering dust, so make sure the gaming aspect appeals to you before you buy it.
4. It’s easy to lie to a game or computer. Studies show approximately 95% of people lie when inputting information into an online calculator like eDiets or Weight Watchers!
1. If you use a Wii Fit, know that, while it’s better than doing nothing, you still need to control the intensity and constantly get better and stronger at it.
2. While the Wii Fit can supplement a more intensive workout routine, it does not burn nearly as many calories. However, some users reported using Wii Fit energized them and encouraged them
to follow up with a visit to the gym.
3. It’s easy to have fun when playing a game. If games suit your personality, go for it!
4. If you tend to start and stop exercise, the Wii probably won’t be any different. A better approach may be to figure out the sabotaging behavior’s root cause and develop a different attitude about yourself, exercise and eating healthfully.
* Study of the Nintendo Wii, sponsored by the American Council on Exercise and conducted by John Pecori at The University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.