Anyone who knows me, knows that I am way behind on technology. I am pretty old-fashioned. I still have a landline, my preschool students play with playdough, paint, and wooden blocks, I make my own cookies and soup, and sometimes bread.
As I am a fitness instructor, the techologicalization of exercise is very surprising to me. When I was a kid, I would ‘exercise’ all the time. I walked to school, had gym class everyday, and played outside all year-round. Our neighborhood was full games such as running bases, kick the can, sardines, and double dutch jump rope. My dad would walk around the house doing odd exercises and my mom embraced the Jazzercise motion. Also, our family was known to have spontaneous dance parties.
We all know that times have changed. Obesity is a major epidemic for a mirad of reasons. Now everyone is finding a way to solve this problem. The newest is electronic-supported exercise. I’m not talking about treadmills, elliptical machines, or stationary bikes or even the huge fitness DVD industry. I’m talking about video games such as Nintendo’s Wii.
Several years ago my husband convinced me that we needed Dance Dance Revolution so that we can exercise and have fun at the same time. We still play it once in awhile and after playing for an hour you might actually be sweating and burn a couple carlories. For research purposes, I recently spent an afternoon with my kids and another family playing Wii Fit and Wii Resort.
Surprise, surprise, I am not a video gamer so I had to take the time to learn how to use it and set up my profile including an initial body assessment and goal setting, The original Wii Fit includes yoga, strength, aerobics, and balance activities. A personal trainer explains and demonstrates each exercise and provides feedback. You learn, practice, and perform several activities at a time and as you go, you can access more and more activities.
(I will preface my review by saying that I am very active and my personal fitness level is probably higher than the average American.)
The yoga and strength portions are challenging for all levels of fitness. I particularly liked the yoga program since it provided lots of feedback to get your body in the right alignment. I found the strength portions a little advanced for the average person but once form is mastered, the exercises are good. The balance section was more game-like including hula hooping. This section was by the far the funnest. The aerobics section was not only difficult to understand and get the hang of, but not an effective cardio workout, even for beginners.
Since the programming takes several steps to actually begin, your workout is slow and discontinuous. The program will track how long your active workout is but to get a full 30-minute session of activity, it will take you 45-minutes of screen time. As I understand, the aerobics programs get longer as you go and the newer programs are a bit better. I also did not like how the steps were presented visually only (similar to DDR). I would have preferred voice commands to tell me what to do similar to attending a live step class. I do not believe that the participant’s heart rate will go up high enough for long enough to be effective for weight loss or maintenance.
Overall, for adults, this is just another fitness tool that is only as effective as you make it and isn’t as effective as more traditional technologies such as treadmills, elliptical, or DVD’s. As my friend told me, she used it a lot when she first got it and now, not so much.
For kids, it’s a different story. The balance section of the program is fun and easy for kids and will help them with balance, coordination, and core strength. My friend said that her son’s coordination and body awareness has improved since using it. As we moved onto the Wii Resort game, the kids were more active and worked up a sweat. I also found the Resort games to be more fun and a very effective core workout. Another person told me that her children love to play the Wii programs and think it is a good alternative to playing outside, which they don’t want to do anyways.
As a fitness professional, I don’t recommend the Wii for an effective way to lose weight or get into shape but a good source of fun and a supplement to another fitness program for all ages. As a teacher, I wouldn’t recommend it at all. I worry that video games are closing kids into their homes. Kids used to play outside with friends and now they play a video game alone in their living rooms. I would recommend you head outside and play with your kids, even in the winter. Go for walks, dance, run around, take a class, or join a team. Make friends with your neighbors or your child’s classmates so they have someone to play with.