Is the Wii Fit Actually Good For You?

So Wii Fit is pretty fun, and I do quite enjoy using it. However, does it actually make you any fitter? Is it any good for weight loss? Do all the new balance games actually make you better at balancing?

A study from the University of Queensland by Nitz, Kuys, Isles and Fu starts to look at the question. It clearly labels itself as just a starting point, and not anything to draw conclusions from, but it is the best we seem have for now.

I'm awesome at this game.

So, in fact the study used staff their friends from the physiotherapy department of Queensland university. They choose ten of them, all female and between 30 and 60 years old. (The journal it is published in is interested in the menopause.) They then got them to play Wii Fit for two 3-minute sessions per week, for ten weeks.  They were required to use activities in all four areas (Balance, Yoga, Aerobic and Strength), although the difficult level and intensity was up to them to choose and improve as they progressed.

They reported the balance improved, but remarked upon the similarity of the tests that the Wii made you do, and that they used. I suppose you could take this further and ask “Are they just getting good at a single test, or are they really getting better?”. I found whilst using Wii Fit that I got very, very good at particular balance games, but this didn’t seem to transfer well.

Strength was improved, although I must remark that Wii Fit doesn’t do anything too interesting for strength tests. A book would do just as well. It’s not even fun!

Flexibility and reaction time did not improve. The women in the study did lose weight (although looking at the results, I don’t think very significantly although they do not explicitly say this), although they all also ended up exercising more in other ways. Perhaps this means that it is good at motivating you? It’s not really possible to say things like that, I suppose. However, none of the subjects reported actually feeling more healthy.

So it seems like the Wii Fit can be good for your balance, but is less likely to be helpful in actual weight loss. It might help motivate people, too.

It is probably worth noting that another experiment looked at Wii Sport games (as oppose to those that actually use the balance board and are made for fitness purposes). Graves, Stratton and Ridgers et al. looked at if young people can claim that using the Wii is part of their exercise routine. The answer is: No. Especially if you are a girl.

And if it is interests you, it looks like Wii Tennis is about 2 MET units.

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