The people at Nintendo must be geniuses, because their most recent “game”, the Wii Fit, shows off everything that is cool about their console. I have a Wii — we got it for the boys (ha!) and I love the game play. I love the simplified controllers, the interactive nature of the games — and I love that my boys (3 and 6) and pretty much pick up a game and start playing right way.
So, it was without reservation that we got the Wii Fit. I’ll admit, I figured it would mostly be a novelty. Something to play — but wouldn’t really be much of a workout. I mean, come on. It’s a video game and I’m pretty fit to begin with. As most know, I cycle a lot (~50 miles daily), run (3-5 miles daily) and lift weights as part of my normal fitness routine. So, I looked at this as something that would be just fun to play. And, well, it is fun to play. However, I’m also finding that it really can be used as a fitness tool as well.
So the Good:
First, it’s just plain fun. The Wii Fit breaks down its “games” into areas of fitness. There is Yoga (which primarily measures balance), Strength training (pushups, squats, plank, etc) which measure balance, rhythm, etc., Aerobic (these games are fun — Hula hoop, basic step, jogging, rhythm boxing, etc) and finally, Balance (with games like Slalom skiing and snowboarding). The games are really entertaining and I love the way that the Wii Fit uses balance measurements for the Yoga and Strength training. I’ve been finding that the Strength training exercises can be a great compliment to my normal weigh training — as the Wii is more resistance (gravity) rather than heavy weights and it’s use of balance tends to force proper positioning.
As you play the games, you get rated on how you do. As you do better, it unlocks more games, allows you to play at more advanced levels, etc. It’s fun — and has kept me coming back. I’ve only had it since Saturday and have already found that I’ve spent about 2 hours using it and really enjoying it. Anyway, as you play, it tells you if you are doing well or not. One thing I love about the Wii — when you lose, it tells you that you’ve lost. If you’re form wasn’t good or your balance was off — it tells you. Good stuff.
While some people might not find this as funny, I got a kick out of the way it determines fitness. The Wii Fit makes an attempt to measure fitness level, and does so by using the BMI (Body Mass Indicator). For about 85-90% of the population over the age of 12, this is a pretty good measurement for giving you general fitness. Basically, the BMI is a simplified formula that measures Weight and Height. For kids under 12 and people that are generally muscular, the BMI is notoriously inaccurate. And for some, this has been the one consistent complain that I’ve heard about the Wii Fit so far — that is that kids are being many times improperly classified as overweight or obese by the game. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the experience that we’ve had with our kids. Both Nathan and Kenny’s scores were realistic. The only person whose results were skewed were mine. On the Wii Fit, my little character is a dough boy (and I’ve got to tell you, Kenny thinks that this is just the funniest thing he’s ever seen) probably because I have a more muscular rather than skinny frame. It’s actually too bad that the folks at Nintendo didn’t include a way to utilize the U.S. Navy’s BMI settings. Essentially, the Navy uses Height, Weight, and then measurements around the Neck and waist to calculate BMI. It might have blunted some of this early criticism about it’s use of the BMI — but I don’t think that it should stop anyone from using the game. You can actually just not use the body tests if you find that this calculation is inaccurate.
From my perspective, I’ve yet to find any downsides. I really like the thing, warts and all.