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Is Wii Fit a Good Exercise Option?

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 4/18/2011

Sure, it's fun, different, and you move around when you play it. But is Wii Fit good exercise? Researchers have come to an interesting conclusion.

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    Can Wii Fit Really Help You Get Fit?

    Wii Fit is advertised as a fun, engaging way to exercise, but some people are skeptical. The chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, Cedric Bryant, says that any exercise is better than no exercise at all, which is what most people get. But that aside - is Wii Fit good exercise, and does it actually make you more fit? Researchers at the University of Mississippi decided to find out.

    In research conducted by Scott Owens, an associate professor of health and exercise science at University of Mississippi, eight families were loaned a Nintendo Wii Fit for three months. The physical activity of these families was monitored over the three month period in which they owned the Wii, as well as the three months prior to the loan. Some of the results were significant, with children in the families becoming more fit aerobically over the course of the study. Families as a whole, however, had no significant changes in daily physical activity, muscular fitness, flexibility, balance, or body composition.

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    The Differences Between the Activities

    Interestingly, whether or not Wii Fit is good exercise may depend on the type of activity you choose to play. For example, research presented at an American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando maintained that Wii Sport boxing was the most efficient activity. A second study, conducted by a team at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, looked at volunteers who were put into metabolic airtight chambers to measure their energy expenditure while performing various activities. (The energy expenditure was measured in METs, or metabolic equivalent of task.)

    At just 2 Mets, Wii golf was the least strenuous activity, and Wii bowling was only slightly more strenuous, at 3 Mets. Wii tennis was as strenuous as walking a dog. They did find exercises that required more energy expenditure, however, such as yoga or aerobics. The most strenuous exercise, which was a single-arm stand, required as much energy expenditure as fast ballroom dancing. The lead author of the study, Dr Motohiko Miyachi, said that the active games could be helpful in reducing the chances of obesity and other diseases related to insufficient exercise, such as heart disease to diabetes.

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    The Most Important Factor

    Of course, the most important factor in whether Wii Fit will help you stay fit should be obvious - whether you actually use it. The University of Mississippi study found that daily Wii Fit use declined from 22 minutes per day during the first six weeks of the study to only four minutes per day during the second six week period -- about an eighty percent decline in use. In other words, when the gaming system was new and exciting, people were willing to use it for enough time to reap the benefits. Within a short period of time, however, the novelty wore off and people were less likely to continue exercising using the Wii Fit.

    So is Wii Fit good exercise? Like anything else, it is a tool. If you are willing to choose the more strenuous games and to keep at it, the Wii Fit can actually do just what its name says: keep you fit.

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    References

    Science Daily. "Wii Fit May Not Help Families Get Fit." http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091218125110.htm

    WMCTV. "Ole Miss Professor Gauges Wii Fit's Effectiveness in Study." http://www.wmctv.com/story/11718534/ole-miss-professor-gauges-wii-fits-effectiveness-in-study?redirected=true

    USA Today. "Your Health: Can Games Like 'Wii Fit' Really Work It?" http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/painter/2009-03-29-your-health_N.htm

    The Telegraph. "Wii Virtual Exercise As Good As the Real Thing." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6581238/Wii-virtual-exercise-as-good-as-the-real-thing.html