Wii Fit? Not so much
By Laura Hogg
From the FitChatter Blog Series
Welcome back to FitChatter! This week in the news: Fitness video games are all the rage – but does their use actually translate to weight loss?
I really need to get in shape. I make all the excuses: I can’t get up early enough to exercise before work, I’m too tired to do it after work, it doesn’t sound like fun, I’m just so busy. A fitness video game, then, would seem to be the perfect solution. I could get in exercise comparable to playing sports – and this is the key, here – without actually going through the humiliation that is playing sports. I’d be trim and fit in no time – right?
A new study says – not so much.
The study, recently released in Pediatrics, came to a conclusion that may sound kind of obvious, but it’s important: owning fitness video games doesn’t automatically translate to weight loss. You have to actually play them. Consistently. You know, like an exercise regime.
Previous studies had shown that kids could get as much exercise on the Wii as they would in a normal gym class. But here’s the problem: those studies took place in a lab, where kids were forced to play the games for the sake of the study. Freedom of choice wasn’t taken into account at all.
And when kids do have that freedom, they don’t choose the exercise games.
In the study, the researchers took kids considered to be at risk for adult obesity, with BMIs in the 50th to 99th percentile. They gave each of them a Wii, and gave half of the group getting fitness games (Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Sports, etc.) and the other half inactive games (Super Mario Galaxy). They were then allowed to play them. Or not. Whatever they wanted to do – just like it would be in real life, distractions, choices, and all.
There was absolutely no difference in activity level between the two groups.
Now, don’t get me wrong: these games can absolutely lead to a greater amount of physical activity – and it’s definitely better than sitting on the couch all day. But it might just be that the very fact that it’s a video game – something fun, something recreational, something optional – means people will be less likely to do it regularly.
Normal video games pull players in through the use of a story – something these games seem to lack, in my experience. And exercise is something that needs to be a routine, or else you’re not going to get much benefit.
So, parents, it’s awesome that you bought your kids a Wii so that they could get healthier and more active. But don’t expect them to play it regularly unless you make it a family routine.
What do you think? Have you experienced benefits from exercise video games? Should exercise video games be redesigned so there’s more incentive to use them regularly?