Wii Games Burn Calories Like a Brisk Walk

Study Shows Some Games Require the Same Energy Expenditure as Moderate-Intensity Exercise

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 17, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 17, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- A new study shows that some Wii sports video games may burn as many calories as moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking.

"It's a very easy and fun way to start a physical activity program," says study researcher Motohiko Miyachi, PhD, of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo.

The study, funded by Wii maker Nintendo, shows that about one-third of the virtual games and activities in the Wii sports video and fitness packages require the same energy expenditure as moderate-intensity exercise.

"Current guidelines recommend that people engage in moderate exercise like walking or doubles tennis about 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to prevent heart disease and stroke," Miyachi tells WebMD. These games may be one way to achieve that goal, says Miyachi, who says he breaks a sweat when playing virtual tennis and basketball.

The new study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Measuring Energy Expenditure

The researchers measured the energy expenditure of 12 men and women, ages 25 to 44, as they pantomimed the basic moves of Wii sports games and Wii fitness programs.

To estimate energy expenditure, they used a standard unit called METs, or metabolic equivalent values. "A MET of 3, for example, means an activity requires three times as much energy expenditure as resting," Miyachi says.

According to AHA guidelines, light-intensity exercise is less than 3 METs, moderate-intensity exercise is 3 to 6 METs, and vigorous activity is more than 6 METs. An adult walking 3 miles an hour on a flat surface expends just over 3 METs, the AHA says.

The study shows that:

  • Nine Wii activities required an energy expenditure of less than 2 METs.
  • 23 activities required 2 to 3 METs.
  • None of the activities required 3 to 4 METs.
  • Five activities required more than 4 METs.

The most intense exercise was the single-arm stand in the Wii fit package, which required an energy expenditure of nearly 6 METs. "It's a difficult resistance exercise that involves standing up and lying down," Miyachi says.

The Wii sports boxing game came in at 4 1/2 METs, while both the Wii tennis and baseball games were associated with moderate-intensity expenditures of about 3 METs.

Wii golfers and bowlers may have to get out and do the real thing to get the health benefits of exercise: both came in at less than 3 METs.

While yoga and balance exercises didn't burn as many calories as other Wii activities, they help improve flexibility and reduce the risk for falls, Miyachi says.

Barry Franklin, MD, of the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., tells WebMD he's all for the Wii games. "They’re fun, they're innovative, and they can be set up almost anyplace. Most importantly, they get people moving."

Show Sources


American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2009, Orlando, Fla., Nov. 15-19, 2009.

Motohiko Miyachi, PhD, National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo.

Barry Franklin, MD, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.

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