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[FitChatter] Wii Fit? Not so much — an article on the Smart Living Network
March 2, 2012 at 9:29 AMComments: 4 Faves: 0

Wii Fit? Not so much

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.

The result?

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? 

Sources: 1 | 2

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  • What I find personally disturbing is how the Microsoft Kinect for XBox 360 is being marketed as a way to control the media player elements of it via voice - rather than the original intention of being a motion enabled gaming platform. Designed to get you up and moving, but marketed as voice activation - because pushing buttons is too hard.

    What really seemed to work for me weight-loss wise is an older gaming solution: Dance Dance Revolution. A couple friends of mine had the DDR pad for their gaming systems and not only could you play the classic arrow-matching game to burn calories, but it had an easy mode that simply let you dance randomly to the music while the system estimated calories burned.

  • Hahahaha, I love it! Once again, research released that will be used to take the blame off parents who don't kick their kids outside to exercise and use their imagination. I love how part of the study involved kids being able to make their own choice about recreation. When the hell did this start happening? When did parents turn into nothing more than vending machines for housing, food, and toys?

    If you take a closer look at the fitness games, the marketing direction isn't even close to children, it is made for adults.

    As for the Kinect being used differently than its intended purpose, that's because its intended purpose flopped. They released the machine without any core gamer support and it fell straight on its face, thus supporting the well known fact that games sell equipment, not the other way around.

  • I've played Wii Fit, and I'm somewhat dubious as to how much exercise you actually get with it. I imagine it is not the same as, say, going to the gym or jogging.

  • That's kind of the point though isn't it? Wii Fit isn't supposed to be a replacement to real exercise, it is supposed to provide an outlet to those who can't find time or money for the gym. An exercise implement that can be used in the comfort of your own home, away from the fitness buffs that make you feel like a fatty no matter how fit you may be.

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