How Effective is Wii Fit?

Do you Wii? If so, you're not alone and, chances are, you use your Wii for workouts (wii-kouts?) and fitness and not just for games. At the beginning of this year, Wii Sports was touted as the most successful video game of all time and by June of this year, more than 20 million people bought Wii Fit. All this activity is great (and, of course, better than sitting around), but many people wonder: Just how effective is Wii Fit and what can you expect to accomplish?

I've talked to plenty of exercisers who've used Wii Fit and most agree - it's fun, it gets you moving, but it's a fairly mild workout that often falls short of being challenging. The American Council on Exercise agrees, having explored the efficacy of Wii Fit by recruiting 16 men and women, ages 20-24, to test things out. They focused on the most challenging activities including: Free Run, Island Run, Free Step, Advanced Step, Super Hula Hoops and Rhythm Boxing. The researchers monitored oxygen uptake (or VO2 Max), heart rate and rate of perceived exertion and found that:

  • The Island Run and Free Run had the highest energy expenditures, burning about 5.5 calories per minute. While these activities got the blood moving, researchers found that these moves weren't sufficient enough to improve endurance as defined by the ACSM. When played for 30 minutes, participants burned about 165 calories.
  • The Free Step, Advanced Step and the other activities studied burned about 3.3-3.8 calories per minute but, again, fell short of ACSM's fitness guidelines. When played for 30 minutes, participants burned about 99-114 calories.

Clearly, this study only involves a small group of people and a fairly narrow age group, so some people may indeed find Wii Fit to be challenging depending on their fitness level and situation.

What Wii-xercisers do agree on is that Wii Fit is motivating. The interaction, the ability to track movements and the fun activities make it a favorite with a variety of populations. However, while Wii Fit is much better than being sedentary, you do need to more cardio and strength training if you want to meet the current exercise guidelines and manage your weight.

Read the full ACE Wii study.

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