Can Wii Make a Difference for Fitness?

August 01, 2007

by Melissa Logsdon, HSC Wellness Intern

Since the Nintendo Wii gaming system – in which players jump, kick, punch, and move their way through video games rather than only sitting – launched in November 2006, articles have been popping up everywhere from Time to The Wall Street Journal about people using the Wii for fitness.

One blogger chronicled his weight loss from a strict regimen of Wii workouts, and the Mayo Clinic conducted a study on the energy expended in playing active video games. (Even HSC joined the conversation with an article in our Summer issue of Healthy Schools magazine.)

Now it seems that this “exergaming” trend is growing in popularity across the globe.

In Canada, the Studeo 55 health club has brought Wii workout to its members, integrating the system into circuit training.  Gym members can box, bowl, and play baseball using Wii’s movement-sensitive controller. 

In Scotland, fitness trainer Zander Urquhart uses the Wii in his fitness classes.  The classes, originally intended only for children, became so popular that he began offering them to both children and adults.  There’s now a four week waiting list to enroll in his Wii-inspired course.

The notion of a fun workout sounds like a wonderful respite for those of us – like me! –  who dread the monotony of working out on a treadmill.

But is exergaming something that can replace the type of free play that we encourage for kids? Probably not. Kids still use more energy running around outside than they do exergaming – and the free play helps them develop creativity and social skills that screen-based activities can’t match.

But playing an active video game certainly provides more health benefits than sedentary screen activities such as watching TV or playing non-active video games.

In a survey conducted by the International Sports Sciences Association, personal trainer Nichole Snow put it this way: 

It will show benefits for everyone. The best part is it’s just fun – for everyone. De-conditioned and obese individuals will find it fun to play and gain aerobic movement out of the games. Seniors can enjoy gentle movements of bowling and golfing. Youth become a part of the game and don’t just turn into vegetables in front of the TV.

Kids still need physical education and recess, still need time for free play and activity throughout their day. And if they play video games in their free time, I hope they join this exergaming wave and work in a little physical activity, too.