How playing the Nintendo Wii could get you fit

Fancy enjoying a Wii bit of fitness?

Fancy enjoying a Wii bit of fitness? Nintendo's Wii fit can help you do just that. Since launching in 2006, the Nintendo Wii has offered an active edge to the world of computer gaming. With players physically moving about to influence proceedings on-screen, the Wii is certainly a fun and surprisingly healthy source of entertainment. But can Wii Fit, Nintendo’s fitness-specific exercise games, really burn off the calories and make players healthier? We take a look at the potential benefits of playing the Wii Fit . Here's how the Nintendo Wii could get you fit...

Burning calories through Wii playing

Computer games have long been associated with inactive teenagers munching endless snacks in darkened rooms. However with the development of the hugely popular Nintendo Wii, this long-standing stereotype has thankfully started to disappear and computer games are starting to disperse into the world of fitness.

Offering a range of sports games, from boxing through to bowling, the Nintendo Wii has always posed a physical challenge to its users. Instead of sinking into the sofa with terrible posture, the Wii console forces players to stand up and use wire-free controllers to move their arms around and mimic the motions of characters on-screen.

A research study from Liverpool John Moores University has shown that this form of active gaming can burn up to 60 calories more than a traditional computer gaming session, over an hour-long period. Not a bad way to get you started ...

The development of ‘Wii Fit’

Following the inadvertent health benefits associated with traditional Wii playing, Nintendo launched ‘Wii Fit’, a program specifically designed for people looking to get healthy without the hassle of gym membership. Instead of using a treadmill or rowing machine, Wii Fit players exercise on a sensitive ‘balance board’, which measures their Body Mass Index (BMI) to suggest activities that will ease them into a fitness routine.

The Wii Fit has proven a huge commercial success and, with over 40 different exercise types, it aims to boost the body in areas such as posture, weight loss, balance and muscle toning. However, although apparently offering a range of exercise styles – from yoga through to ski jumping – can Wii Fit really replace a full-time gym program? Will jumping round your living room truly offer the same health kick as a two-mile jog around the block?

Exercising on the Wii Fit

Getting started on the Wii Fit couldn’t be any easier. Once the player’s BMI has been calculated by the balance board, they simply choose a male or female instructor to train them through four key areas of fitness, each containing a variety of exercises. These areas comprise yoga, toning, balance exercises and aerobic workouts.

Wii Fit exercise routines provide users with straightforward instructions. The sensitive balancing board charts a player’s movements as they go, and early workouts ease the beginner into fitness training with bite-sized, two-minute introductions to each new exercise.

Is Wii Fit really a viable fitness option?

So, with all its straightforward usability and clear instruction, does the Wii Fit prove a viable fitness option for those looking to get healthy on the cheap? The current version of the game appears something of a halfway house ...

Though offering a diverse range of fitness activities, the Wii Fit is hampered by its very nature. Whereas a personal health instructor would be able to draw up a detailed exercise plan based on a person’s condition, age and body shape, the Wii is at a technological disadvantage. The Wii Fit balance board may be a highly sensitive piece of hardware, but it can only ever make an educated guess about what styles and levels of activity are right for different users. Although it will provide a good basis for general fitness, the Wii Fit will therefore struggle to offer a perfectly detailed workout tailored to suit all of a player’s individual needs.

The Wii Fit also suffers from its somewhat disjointed exercise routines. Whilst gym membership offers the chance for continuous exercise, Wii Fit workouts are known to end quite suddenly and leave the gamer wanting more. With no overall rhythm, it’s really hard for the beginner player to get into the full swing of an exercise routine and maintain a steady heart rate. Though changing exercises may allow for a varied session, Wii Fit workouts are often simply too short to really build up a sweat.

Nintendo Wii keeps you fit


Nevertheless, regardless of these gripes, the Wii Fit has proven a safe and fun way of getting the body moving. Its faults are entirely down to its impersonal technological nature, rather than any lack of effort on the designers’ parts. The game can still help to tone the body, with an hour of varied beginner exercises potentially burning anything from 400-500 calories. Meanwhile, the game can also develop self-awareness, with its balance board detecting where gamers should place their weight during exercise to improve posture and balance.

Summing up the Wii Fit

Overall, if you’re serious about getting fit and are looking to take part in a running or endurance event, the Wii Fit probably isn’t going to offer enough to really get you into prime fitness condition. With bite-sized exercise bursts and an (inevitably) general training program, serious fitness fans may wish to splash out on an all-together more human personal instructor.

However, if you’re an exercise novice, simply looking to boost your daily health through fun and frantic workouts, the Wii Fit could certainly offer a safe and highly accessible option, guiding you through the basics and proving much cheaper than joining the local gym.

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