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Can You Really Get Fit With Wii Exercise Games?

Experts weigh in on the value of video game exercise.

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.

"With the aerobics and even the strength training, the activities become more challenging and they encourage you to do more repetitions, so there is a built-in progression," Bryant says.

Throughout Wii Fit, a trainer walks you through demos, then the actual exercise. She or he (your choice) offers encouraging phrases, like "Good job!" or "You're strong." The onscreen trainer also makes comments, like a suggestion to shift your weight or, after a poor attempt, to keep training in order to improve.

Each time you weigh in, you receive a "stamp" for the day. A "fit bank" logs how many minutes you participate each day, as well as your ongoing weight and weight goals. But it does not log calorie burn, which might lead people to think they are exercising harder than they really are, says Bryant.

"It's a nice idea to take advantage of technology that's typically associated with sedentary behavior and use it with some of the gaming aspects, particularly for young people," he says of video fitness gaming. "The one caveat is that while that's certainly better than the alternative -- traditional video games -- one shouldn't use it as a substitute for the real thing."

Fitness Games: Entertainment With Activity

Nintendo isn't claiming that Wii Fit will help people lose weight -- or even become healthier. The company says it merely hoped to create a game that combines entertainment and the ability to track progress with a healthy activity.

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