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Wii Fit Rides the Virtual Exercise Wave

The Latest Entry in Fitness Games Offers You a Workout in the Comfort of Your Home
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 19, 2008 (New York) -- The U.S. debut of Nintendo's Wii Fit system suggests that the trend of breaking a sweat and raising your heart rate while twirling a virtual hula hoop or fighting off avatars is most definitely here to stay.

Nintendo on Monday released Wii Fit, the latest addition to the virtual exercise or "exertainment" category. The Wii Fit system offers 40 games in four categories -- yoga, aerobics, balance, and strength training. Wii Fit games include hula hooping, snowboarding, step aerobics, and yoga.

The full-day launch event took place at an entryway into New York City's Central Park, where hordes of busy urbanites of all ages were invited to hula hoop or strike a yoga pose on the new Wii Fit balance board as a cadre of elite trainers showed them the (virtual) ropes.

(Will you add Wii Fit to your exercise regimen? Talk about it and get an expert's view on WebMD's Exercise and Fitness: Rich Weil, MEd, CDE message board.)

Wii Fit's Role as 'Personal Trainer'

Wii Fit and other virtual exercise platforms basically meet gamers where they live -- the couch. With Wii Fit, participants stand on the balance board in front of the television and move and groove along with the instructions and graphics. Instead of the traditional joysticks, the body serves as the conduit.

The Wii Fit system also serves as a personal trainer of sorts by providing feedback and tracking progress. A player's "Mii character" actually reflects these changes; if you slim down, so to does your virtual counterpart. Every person in a household gets his or her own character and can chart progress separately.

"It's intuitive," says celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, the author of 5-factor Fitness, who was on hand at the launch event. "As you become better, it unlocks newer games and increases the intensity so you do more repetitions as you progress."

And this is just the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to virtual exercise, he predicts. Still, he says, "it doesn't replace going to the gym or playing on a softball team. It's yet another tool in the toolbox of active living."

With the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the U.S., there is no doubt that the new system can help children shed excess weight and become more active. But it's not just for kids, Pasternak tells WebMD.

"Everybody is in the target audience," he says."I got beaten by a 9-year-old and a 72-year-old at hula hooping so far today." Still, he cautions, individuals with a pre-existing medical condition or those who have been sedentary should check with a doctor before beginning any new exercise program, even a virtual one.

(Read our reporter's test run of Wii Fit on the WebMD News Blog.)

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