This Christmas many fat cutters are looking for gifts that can inspire health and fitness among their family members. One such gift is the Nintendo Wii Fit which has found its way into 21 million households since its launch in 2007. It is encouraging to see that families are at least trying to promote fitness in their household; but it begs the question, does the Wii Fit actually promote weight loss?
The American Council on Exercise recently published a brief review of this topic and I wanted to provide you with some of the highlights. In the study, six Wii Fit activities were tested for how they impact caloric expenditure and cardiovascular fitness. Below I have listed some of the main findings:
- Island Run and Free Run yielded the best energy expenditures allowing the participants to reach 60% of their maximum heart rate. Both games burned approximately 5.5 calories per minute (165 calories/30 minutes).
- Free Step burned 3.3 calories per minute (99 calories/30 minutes); Advanced Step burned 3.6 calories per minute (108 calories/30 minutes); Super Hula Hoop burned 3.7 calories per minute (111 calories/30 minutes); Rhythm Boxing burned 3.8 calories per minute (114 calories/30 minutes).
- None of the games produced improvements in cardiorespiratory endurance.
So, as you can see, the Wii Fit burns a modest number of calories compared to actual exercises in the field or gym. With that said, the fact that a child is performing some sort of physical activity rather than slumping on a couch and moving their thumbs all night is an improvement. Everything counts! More and more research is coming to light about a concept called Non-Exercise Activity Time (NEAT); the term NEAT includes all activity that occurs during the day that does not involve actual exercise. Researchers show that fit people move more all day long; they fidget, they stand, they walk, they sway…they just naturally move more! Although the Wii Fit would technically fall into the exercise realm; an argument could be made that the perception of play takes the stress out of the exercise label…resulting in instant NEAT. It is my belief that we should promote exercise on top of the Wii Fit, meaning that we should not rely on the Wii as our primary source of activity. With that said, I believe that this could be a fun addition to a healthy household allowing the entire family to bond and compete around a NEAT, gaming idea. (Ok, I know, that was a bad pun-Blythe made me say it)
(Fitness Matters, Nov/Dec 2009: 15;6, Pages 6-8)