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
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,
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.
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
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
"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
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.