Science argues with Wii Fit weight loss claims

In case you missed the memo, real people play Wii games. Or so says Nintendo‘s British arm, anyway, who are working on an ad campaign titled “Nintendo Real Stories”. The advertisements have included personalities like actress Helen Mirren, and even an all-female rugby team, in an effort to appeal to the female audience in the UK.

The latest ad, however, might attract a few blokes as well – the new “real person” who enjoys a bit of Wii gaming is Jade, a burlesque dancer. Take a look:

Nintendo Real Stories – Wii – Burlesque from Tu Neill on Vimeo.

Unfortunately for Jade, recent studies have shown that games like Wii Fit are good for light exercise, but nothing compared to the ‘real thing’.

Dale Wagner, a health professor at Utah State University, was recently interviewed by the Standard-Examiner, where he explained:

“The interactive video games increase heart rate and energy expenditure compared to sedentary computer games. However, the increase in heart rate with these games corresponds to only light to moderate intensity.

“I think there are some positive health/fitness aspects to interactive video games, and interactive gaming may serve as a transition for getting sedentary individuals to participate in real physical activity. However, the games are not intense or vigorous enough to take the place of the real activity and are not likely to improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of most healthy young adults.”

The academic’s arguments are backed up by a personal trainer, who observes that playing a game like Wii Fit, which has a level of physical interaction, is better than playing a “stationary-type game”, but that it’s still not as good as getting out and “really running”.

Wii Fit - Yoga

Yoga in Wii Fit

Before you write your Wii off totally as a health aid, remember that it’s still considered to be quite a handy little tool when it comes to rehabilitation – both physical and mental.

The University Orthopedic Center in Salt Lake City has been using Wii consoles as therapy for the past two years, and staff there observe that it’s useful for making rehab more enjoyable, as therapist Patty Trela explains:

“Usually when we have patients in here, we do stretching and weightlifting. It’s pretty boring, especially for those people who really don’t like exercising. So this gives us a way to make exercise fun.”

She goes on to explain that the Wii’s Balance Board in particular gives patients a “three-dimensional picture” of their body, which can really help them correct their balance issues.

“We really don’t have that in any of the tools in the clinic.”

…so, sorry Jade, but your weight loss (and maintenance) probably has more to do with your diet, your other exercise and – dare I say it – your dancing practise than the video games. Ah well.

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