When I was growing up, video games held NO appeal, at least to my girlfriends and I, who were the “sporty girls” in school. For the boys at my junior high school though, Pac Man & Donkey Kong kept them busy through many a lunch hour at the local arcade! Besides the exercise involved in actually WALKING to the nearby “Happy Pop” store to play, not much fitness was ever acquired. That was sometime back in the 80‘s…Can today’s video games offer play time with fitness combined? The short answer is YES.
The long answer requires some explanation of HOW you could use a fun tool like Wii Fit to help you achieve your fitness goals. We first need to break down fitness into it’s components: cardio, strength, flexibility, balance & body composition. As with other types of exercise- to build fitness, you need enough intensity (or challenge), for enough time on a regular basis (3-5 times a week at least) to get fit.
So, to evaluate this tool for it’s fitness building potential, it needs those three elements:
1. A “Butt-Kicking Element” ie. enough intensity or challenge
2. A Cardio Effect. This means enough time spent on the tool long enough (minimum 30 minutes of cardio exercise where heart rate is elevated to a point where it is a bit difficult to both talk & exercise simultaneously)
3. Play. Rest. Repeat. A willingness to do this form of exercise on a regular basis (ie. a minimum of 3-5 times a week), or at least combine it with some other forms to keep you motivated & keen.
Nintendo’s Wii Fit provides all of these. Here’s how.
Enough intensity? Activities like jogging, boxing, hula hooping & the strength training offer enough intensity to give you the required intensity to build fitness. My roommate, who is a self-professed non-exerciser, was more than willing to RACE me in our own living room (running on the spot with the Wii Remote in your hand or back pocket), which attests to the fact that the FUN component could fool some into actually exercising and enjoying it!
Cardio? It’s quite easy to do 30 minutes of cardio on this equipment by combining a variety of the above listed activities. I’m told, from a client who’s son was far more “savvy” at using this tool, that he could jog while watching his favorite TV show simultaneously! Isn’t that cool? If only I could figure out HOW to make my system do that…You may even find yourself going beyond the 30 minutes because of the variety of games available!
But does it get boring after a while? There are many features of Wii Fit that encourage regular play. First and foremost- it’s entertaining and leads to giggles, every once in a while! The music gets a little repetitive after a while but the scores, occasional commentary and accumulating fitness credits which “open up further activities” keep you going. Once you’ve set up your Mii (your game persona) your values are stored for return visits. It generates a “Body Age” for you based on your agility & BMI among a few other things. A friend’s teenager son spent 3 hours playing Wii in our living room one night, determined to improve his age from 34 to a respective 15. Word is, he was quite sore the following morning when he got out of bed. Beware, this exercise form can be addictive as well as promote injuries in particularly in shoulders from bowling, batting and boxing activities. Use common sense & moderation. Oh, and move your furniture out of the way, another casualty I know of broke a toe playing Wii….
From a physiotherapy perspective, the balance games & the coordination sports like boxing may have the added bonus of assisting clients with rehabilitation. The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta was one the first facilities to announce they were using Wii to help clients recovering from head injuries. I imagine motivation to play Wii rather than do “traditional physiotherapy” exercises would be off the charts!
The down-side…if you already very fit (ie. an athlete), this may be more difficult- the product is designed more for the “average joe” exerciser. You will need to spend longer on the Wii Fit or push yourself a bit harder to get a cardio effect.
One final comment on the plus side, it’s cheaper than a gym membership and almost void of excuses unless your power is out!