Wii Fit: Is it Really a Workout?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
"For far too long, video game consoles have limited themselves to being fun and entertaining. But with Wii Fit, the sky's the limit." That's how a parody video made by YouTube user SARCASTICGAMER opens. I recently came across this spoof on the Nintendo Wii Fit ads and just had to share it! Whether you are a Wii Fit fan or don't get what it's all about, I think everyone can appreciate the humor in this video. But all jokes aside, I think it does bring up some valid points that may answer the question: Does Wii Fit count as exercise?

If you have trouble viewing the video below, click here to see it on YouTube.

Here are some of the highlights that I wanted to point out and discuss.

"You'll love leaning side to side with Nintendo's Wii Fit. And don't miss sticking out your leg."
I have to agree that there is a lot of standing in place when it comes to using the Wii Fit. Even when I reviewed the Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum game, I was surprised to see that you literally stood on the balance board without lifting either foot to "run" in the game. It seemed a little weird to me. Why not just run—or even walk—in place? Running on the Wii Fit clearly isn't the same as running in real life. However, exercises like Wii boxing require more movement and simulate the real thing in a fun, heart-pumping way.

"Wii Fit combines the perfect balance of barely moving and doing mundane things."
I laughed a lot at that line. Doesn't anyone else find it funny that pushups in real life are hard, boring and real work, but pushups on the Wii Fit are suddenly supposed to be more fun? If doing pushups on the Wii Fit is the only way you're going to do pushups, for example, then I don't see any problem with that. But if you think that you're going to have fun doing them while watching a virtual trainer on the screen, you might be surprised to find that they're just as boring and tough on the Wii Fit as they are in real life.

"Instead of having your kids go outside and play to get exercise, why not have them stand right in front of the TV?"
While I realize that not every child is an athlete and that many children live in unsafe neighborhoods where they can't play outside, I have to agree that playing real games outside is way more fun and beneficial than pretending to play with soccer balls and hula-hoops indoors. While I adamantly believe that kids are better off playing Wii Fit than traditional, sedentary video games—after all, all physical activity is more beneficial than sitting still—it is no substitute for real sports and recreation.

"Standing in one place has never been more fun than with Nintendo's Wii Fit. Find out today why people all over the world think they're getting exercise with that little white thing you stand on. It's simple. It's easy. And you don't have to do anything."
OK, here's comes the cold, hard truth. In my professional opinion, most (but not all) Wii Fit games and "exercises" aren't a good substitute for traditional workouts. However, whether your Wii Fit workout counts as "exercise" or not depends on three factors: how hard you're working, how long you sustain that intensity level, and how fit you already are.

The important thing you need to distinguish is the difference between "activity" and "exercise," which many people tend to confuse. These are two separate things. Not all "activity" counts as exercise. For example, you are "active" when you play miniature golf, wash your car, take the stairs at the office, and—in my opinion—when you play Wii Fit games. All of these pursuits will help you achieve an active lifestyle and burn more calories than being sedentary. But they won't take the place of exercise.

Workout guidelines are very specific. For something to count as cardio, you have to elevate your heart rate to a specific level, sustain it for at least 5-10 minutes, and use your large muscle groups in a rhythmic way, like when you run, walk, dance or swim. All three of those factors must to present for something to count as cardio, for example. That means things like Wii boxing could count, if you're working hard enough and sustaining that intensity long enough. But other things like Wii hula hoop don't (it doesn't involve your major muscle groups and might not elevate your heart rate high enough).

There are specific guidelines for strength training, too, like doing enough repetitions to reach muscle fatigue, doing a variety of exercises, and continuing to progress (increase) your resistance level. While the Wii Fit does allow you to progress a little bit, there comes a point when you'll reach the highest level offered and will no longer benefit from doing the same selection of exercises.

Many of the Wii Fit exercises won't meet all of those guidelines for all people. There, I said it! But before you get upset, remember what I said above: It depends on how hard YOU work, and yes, all physical activity is beneficial, even if it doesn't fit the standard definition of exercise. I'm going to continue to review new Wii Fit games as well, because I think they're all a little different in terms of intensity and variety. Some offer more true exercise options than others, and I'm on a mission to find the best Wii Fit workout there is!

What do you think? Do you think the Wii Fit offers a good workout, or is it just fun and games? Did you find the humor in that video like I did?