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Can You Really Get Fit With Wii Exercise Games?

Experts weigh in on the value of video game exercise.
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How the New Wii Fit Exercise Games Work continued...

Balance is a key component to Wii Fit. It not only determines your Wii fitness level, but is also one of the four categories of Wii fitness games. Balance games consist of a ski slalom run, a ski jump, a table tilt, and soccer "heading," during which you butt the onscreen ball with your head.

"Many Wii Fit activities are directed towards a 'core' workout, a popular exercise method that emphasizes slower, controlled motions," explains Marc Franklin, director of public relations for Nintendo of America.

According to experts, however, balance -- especially the ability to stay poised on a board -- rarely reflects actual fitness ability.

"In terms of skill, balance, coordination and agility are important for our functional capabilities, but they don't equate to how fit a person is," says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Other Types of Wii Exercise Games

In addition to the balance games, Wii Fit offers yoga, strength training, and aerobics. Each of these categories offers just four or five choices at first, but the longer you exercise, the more games you "unlock."

With yoga, for example, users can choose between deep breathing, the tree pose, a half moon, or the warrior pose. Bryant, who tested Wii Fit on an informal basis, says he was "reasonably impressed" with this part of the game, especially the biofeedback component, which measures how steady you hold each pose, in addition to proper weight distribution. But true yoga buffs are likely to scoff, he says.

"They'll probably take issue with Wii Fit simplifying the whole discipline too much for their likes," he explains.

If you select strength training, you can choose between single-leg extensions, torso twists, lunges, jackknifes, and a push-up/side plank combo. The balance board can't tell you whether you're doing these exercises correctly. It can only count how many times you do them (when you touch the board) and offer general suggestions, such as an admonition not to drop your hips during the side plank.

With aerobics, you can start with a basic step, a basic run (in place, off the board, with the wiimote in your packet) or hula-hooping. These all require a low level of cardio activity, and Bryant says he was the least impressed with this part of the game. But the farther you advance in the game, the harder these exercises become.

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