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Wiitness the fitness: can Nintendo's new games compete with a proper aerobic workout? Time Out finds out


  • 67 H WII1_crop.jpg The arrival of Nintendo’s range of health and fitness options for its Wii console can be greeted in either of two ways. Is the lead player in the gaming industry doing its bit towards weaning the flabby army of habitual gamers away from their dangerously sedentary lifestyles? Or is it just a cynical ploy to deflect attention from games manufacturers’ own starring role in the child-obesity problem? This, after all, is now serious enough to provoke the Department of Health to set up a working group with the gaming industry as part of its cross-governmental ‘Healthy weight, healthy lives’ strategy, introduced earlier this year.

    With the jury out for the count, I road-test the new equipment to find out. The Wii, like the more expensive PlayStation 3, has a motion sensor in the controller letting you interact through movement more than button-pressing. So it’s true that Wii games do encourage more active playing and at £180 for the console and £70 for the Wii Fit package, released this month, the total is cheaper than a six-month gym subscription. Judging from its marketing, (silhouette of slender woman in yoga pose on box) Nintendo has a wider audience in mind beyond its core gaming market, describing it merely as a ‘new, fun and interactive way to exercise’.

    Setting it up is simple enough for non-gamers – insert the game disc and connect the bathroom scales-like balance board. The machine weighs you and calculates your body mass index. Then the fun begins. There are four kinds of exercise: yoga, balance games, muscle and aerobic with initial exercises geared to beginners. These vary from carefully controlled yoga moves to frenetic cartoon dancing and running games.

    I plump for the Step class. I push all the furniture to the sides of the living room. I stand in the centre of the room in my gym shorts climbing on and off the scales in time to plinky-plonky music as I stare at the TV. I’m grinning like a child with my actions mirroring those of my onscreen character. Meanwhile, my onscreen personal trainer helps me exercise, grading my success.

    My lazy plan to stop after 15 minutes is forgotten as I move on to balance games and decide to have just one more go at the ski jump, where you straighten your knees and balance carefully to achieve a better jump. The instructions are very clear, you don’t actually jump. So when I do and land on the sofa, I have only myself to blame.

    My first session leaves me pleasantly tired and moderately sweaty. Apart from the ski jump mishap, I’ve gone running, done press-ups, spun hula hoops around my waist and headed footballs. In subsequent sessions over the course of a week the exercises become increasingly demanding, and extra options – which pop up the more you use it – mean that it never feels overly repetitive. Nintendo says the focus of Wii Fit is on core stability and improving balance and it feels like it’s having some effect. However, does it really compare to a gym workout?

    The following Tuesday I try the 12.30pm circuit training course at the Jubilee Hall gym in Covent Garden. Any thought that I’ve been working out exhaustively at home is blown away in seconds. A full, intensive exercise session like this is very different from Nintendo’s gentle experience. I was dripping with sweat in minutes, even when I tried to pace myself, and my T-shirt was soaked by the end.

    The Wii Fit can’t compete and those keen to radically change their fitness levels still need to trek to the gym. But, if you’re self-conscious about your body or lacking in co-ordination, Wii Fit is a good alternative. It’s private so no one can see you mistime your steps (and let me tell you, that Step Plus is harder than it looks – you have to clap in time to the music, too).

    As a home-exercise regime Wii Fit is more exciting than an exercise DVD and takes up less space than a fitness ball, although it is more expensive than those options. It’s a fun, rewarding way to get some gentle exercise and learn a little yoga. Don’t fool yourself, though, that Wii Fit will be a viable alternative to a serious exercise regime.

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barbara
barbara

I 'm 67 years old and on medicatiion for high blood presure so I started on the wii fit plus 2 yrs ago I do 30 to 45minutes a day mon to fri and now I have found that my blood presure is under control and I'm not having to go as often to see the doctor. Granted its not like going to the gym but it has worked for me.