As part of my get in shape plan, which generally includes dieting, two spin classes per week, a pilates class, and weights at the gym, I have also included the Wii Fit by Nintendo. I have seen a number of reviews of the Wii Fit, but I feel that most did not give it enough of a test for a truly accurate review, so I decided to review it in several parts in order to be more in depth. Part I covers the basics. Part II looks at the individual games in more detail. Part III will contain some tips and tricks.
Wii Fit Overview: The Wii Fit is a set of fitness games and a balance board (pictured below) developed for Nintendo Wii game consoles. It incorporates the balance board and also use the hand controller and nunchuck at times. In order to motivate and measure progress, the Wii Fit includes a calendar and body tests for weighing, judging balance, and marking days that the Wii Fit was used. By playing Wii Fit games daily and taking a daily body test, you can improve your strength and flexibility and also monitor your weight, center of balance, and body mass index (BMI).
Getting Started: Measuring Wii Fit age, body weight, and BMI: When you first fire up the Wii Fit, it will ask you to set your age and height and weight yourself using the balance board. From there, it will calculate your BMI and declare you either underweight, normal, overweight, or obese—chirping out the result in a cute high pitched voice that you may or may not like depending on the results that it gives you. It also measures your center of balance. The system will allow you set weight loss goals, and it keeps track of your progress and activity on graphs. I particularly like this tracking ability.
The system will also determine your “Wii Fit age,” based on a random selection of two balance tests. I find the Wii Fit age to be rather silly and misleading—I have gone between 66 and 31 in a single day (for those who feel they need to know, I am actually 41). If you falter on a test, you will suddenly find yourself very old, while the next day, you may do particularly good an be very young. For most people the fit age will have little to do with actual physical fitness.
Up to eight family members can keep records and track progress on the fit and their Miis (customizable, and bizarrely cute Wii Avatars) along with the Miis of other people in your Wii system, will appear in the background in some of the games.
Games Overview: The Wii Fit includes four types of games. Initially, and probably to your annoyance, but as is the norm in such things, you will not have everything available. But as you gain fit credits (in the form of coins placed in a “piggy bank” for minutes exercised), you will unlock more games and higher levels of certain games. For games that require a trainer (yoga and strength), there is a choice between a male and female trainer. My husband says the female trainer is hot. I think she is rather average, but perhaps I don’t want to think about her “hotness” all that much. The male trainer is cute, but a bit creepy for my tastes. I think my husband is secretly relieved by this.
- Balance Games: These games use the balance board to measure side to side and front to back movement in order to help improve coordination and balance. My favorites are ski jumping, penguin slide (because it is dam cute), and table tilt. Other games include soccer ball heading (complete with creepy panda heads that fly at you), ski slalom, snowboard slalom, tightrope walk, balance bubble, and lotus focus/zazen (which involves holding still while flies buzz around and someone yells at you).
- Yoga: The yoga games are single poses that lack any smooth progression between them. I will discuss this problem more in Part II. Included poses are: Deep Breathing, Half-Moon, Dance, Cobra, Bridge, Spinal Twist, Shoulder Stand, Warrior, Tree, Sun Salutation, Standing Knee, Palm Tree, Chair, Triangle and Downward-Facing Dog.
- Strength Training: Strength exercises include: Single Leg Extension, Sideways Leg Lift, Arm and Leg Lift, Single-Arm Stand, Torso Twists, Rowing Squat, Single Leg Twist, Lunge, Push-Up and Side Plank, Jackknife, Plank and Tricep Extension. There are also challenges that include Push-Up Challenge, Plank Challenge and Jackknife Challenge.
- Aerobics: I find that the aerobic games must be played multiple times in a row in order to get a complete workout, and, even in my sorry state of physical condition, several of the easy levels of the games do not sufficiently raise my heart rate. More on this in Part II. The games available are: Hula Hoop, Basic Step, Basic Run, Super Hula Hoop, Advanced Step, 2-Person Run, Rhythm Boxing, Free Step and Free Run. Rhythm boxing is my favorite, but it takes a bit to unlock the 10 minute version of it that I play several time in a row.
Staying Motivated: As you play the games, you earn credits to unlock more games. By doing a daily body test, you can stamp a calendar and earn different stamps based on number of days of participation. The game will note missed days and chide you a bit. It also occasionally offers amusing comments and will give you fitness tips on start up if you desire. The other day it asked me if my husband looked slimmer. I was tempted to say no, but I said yes because I wanted him on my good side in order to pay for sushi dinner later that night.
Basic Thoughts: On a base level, the Wii Fit is fun and fairly motivating. For those who are in the obese weight range and/or very out of shape, it may also provide a good workout. However, for those already in fairly decent or even average physical shape, the games may be too easy in terms of building fitness. It is hard to get a real solid aerobic workout, because the games cap at ten minutes each and also cap speed at a fairly low rate. But hula hoop seems to be an exception to the speed issue and I can really get my heart rate up with that one—while managing to look silly at the same time. The strength exercises include some toughies, but others are easy, and there is a lack of instruction for modifying them to add weights. The yoga poses do not progress or offer many modifications, and the balance games, while fun, cannot alone constitute a workout.
With all that said though, it is possible to get a decent basic to low level workout from the Wii Fit and I will discuss that more in Part II. But those who are already in OK condition or who want to really focus on weight loss will likely find the Wii Fit useful only as an adjunct to other forms of exercise–that is how I use it. Alone, it just won’t quite cut it.
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