Wii Fit Exercise and Workout Review – Final Verdict

29 08 2008

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Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Although the full 30-day test had to cut short due to stress injuries, Mediasapien was still able to put the Wii Fit through its paces, as well as a few other exercise-based game titles.

The validity of videogame-based workouts has been a heated debate since they first emerged as a serious offering a few years back.  To many they represent little more than a silly diversion, while to others the usefulness and potential benefits seem like an obvious step in the continuing development of virtuality as an analogue to reality.  In truth, the current state of the art lies somewhere in between.

For experienced athletes, yoga buffs, and other highly active people, using a videogame to exercise would seem like a step backwards – if you already run 10k marathons, then jogging alongside Mii Ron Jeremy and Homer Simpson would offer little added incentive.  Likewise for a regular gym rat or yoga student – the game may offer a portal into a remarkable simulation, but for those with experience, the analogue wears thins fast.  Add to that Wii Fit’s tendency towards gentleness and safety  (understandable), and the usefulness for pros drops significantly.

All of these qualities are a benefit to most potential users however, who are likely not highly active people.  Whether targeting hardcore gamers, or the emerging casual gamer market, the gentle and easy nature of Wii Fit definitely finds its demographic.  The slow and calm pace, with lots of click-confirms between each move, insure that few people will get too aggressive while playing.  Little surprise that Wii Fit has been such a huge success in physical therapy and retirement communities. 

The decision to mix traditional exercise with a variety fitness-based games insures that people who don’t particularly like exercise, but who do like games will get up and give some of it a try, and maybe encourage them to move more.  This occurred in Mediasapien’s case.  While following the boxing-step class exercise in Wii Fit, I remembered that the original Wii Sports title included a previously untried boxing game.  After playing that game through to it’s limit, I was hooked on the game of boxing 3 round fights against increasingly harder opponents.  I still wanted more – although not particularly interested in hitting people (and more importantly, getting hit), I realize that I may need to find a gym with boxing facilities anyway – or at least a heavy bag, if only to keep the best part of the game-based workout in my routine.

It’s a bit ironic that the best workout, both for strength and cardio, wasn’t technically part of Wii Fit at all, but a forgotten part of the original Wii Sports disc.  And others agree.  A quick Google search confirmed that scientists and fitness experts have tested the Wii boxing game with real scientific rigor, and found it to be nearly as good as a real boxing workout regime.  The calories burned were marginally lower playing the Wii than in RL, but just barely, and the strengthening benefits were the same.  Maybe even better overall, if you consider not getting hit repeatedly in the face as a kind of side bonus.  Unfortunately, the technical shortcomings of the hardware prohibited Mediasapien from Boxing beyond a certain skill level – the Wiimote sensor was simply not up to the task of tracking the boxing motions beyond a certain speed.  The frustration of playing with a non-responsive game was enough to inspire me to start pricing punching bags and stands online.

Recent Nintendo announcements promise a new, highly sensitive Wiimote add-on that will increase the overall accuracy of the sensors by several orders or magnitude.  Hopefully this hardware upgrade, along with upcoming fitness software that has more committed users in mind, will allow the next generation of workout games to fulfill the promise of usefulness that Wii Fit has only hinted at.

To answer the ultimate question – Yes, Wii Fit and its ilk are indeed valid methods to sweat, gain flexibility and increase cardio strength (Sorry Morgan Webb).  The Wii Fit’s variety of games and unique sensor tech gives the game a certain edge over some other titles, but the lackluster customizing options severely limit it’s value as a long-term workout tool.  Its a fun way to get the blood flowing, and may very well inspire you to go out and exercise beyond the screen (a weird idea I know), but ultimately Wii Fit has to be viewed as a kind of gateway drug to a real workout.

If this were X-Play, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  Hey look at that, they did. 

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3 responses

30 08 2008
Tony

Nice summary – have been using the Wii Fit for 15 days myself. It’s main value has been as a focal point for me (a 55 year old largely sedentary male at the top end of the overweight scale according to the BMI – possibly slightly flattering!), although I’m finding the yoga and strengthening exercises good value and can feel a difference. I love the rythmic boxing exercise also, and the balance games are a nice warm-up and warm-down.

It will eventually wear thin – hopefully there will be some updates and improvements by then! For now its doing what I needed and I weigh 2kg less already (not just because of the exercises but because of the direction it has helped me create).

14 09 2008
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20 10 2008
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