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American Heart Association Sees Fitness Value in Virtual Games Like Wii Fit Plus

May 17, 2010 -- The American Heart Association (AHA) has given its seal of approval to Nintendo's Wii, Wii Fit Plus, and Wii Sports Resort. The AHA's "heart check" logo -- which is normally only seen on healthy foods -- will now appear on these virtual exercise or active game systems. The new partnership will also include a research summit and a $1.5 million donation from Nintendo to the AHA.

While video games tend to get a bad rap when it comes to their role in fostering the obesity epidemic, the advent of virtual exercise games such as Nintendo's Wii changed the playing field by encouraging what experts now call active play. Nintendo has sold 29 million Wii consoles since the system debuted in 2006.

Seventy percent of Americans do not get the recommended amounts of physical activity each week. The AHA-Nintendo partnership aims to help overcome some of the barriers to regular physical activity such as the lack of time to exercise and the lack of enjoyment in fitness. It is designed to "meet people where they are and seek unique opportunities to be successful," explains AHA President Clyde Yancy, MD, the medical director of Baylor University medical center and chief of cardiothoracic transplantation at Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute in Houston.

"It's not about joining a fancy gym or training for a marathon, it's about accumulating physical activity throughout the day," says Timothy Church, MD, PhD, MPH, the director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and the chairman of the AHA's physical activity committee.

Exercise in the Comfort of Your Home

Adults need 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Active play or virtual exercise may be the right fit for "adults who are just beginning and need instruction and those who just don't want to go to the gym," he says. "They can now start in the comfort of own home. This is their personal trainer."

"This is fun. I play with my kids," Church says. "It's always going to be a balance; kids need exercise before school, at school, and after school."

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