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American Council on Exercise Charts 'Underwhelming'  Wii Fit  Health Benefits
American Council on Exercise Charts 'Underwhelming' Wii Fit Health Benefits
November 10, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

November 10, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
More: Console/PC, Serious

The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a leading fitness authority and training organization, has released the results of a study that tested the effectiveness of Nintendo's exercise tool and balance trainer Wii Fit.

The study, conducted in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin La Crosse Exercise and Health Program, found that Wii Fit produced "underwhelming results," in terms of exercise intensity.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin tested the Free Run, Island Run, Free Step, Advanced Step, Super Hula Hoop and Rhythm Boxing portions of Wii Fit, which were determined to be the game's most aerobically challenging activities.

The Free Run and Island Run gameplay portions yielded the highest energy expenditures, with players burning an average of 165 calories after 30 minutes of play. Rhythm Boxing, Super Hula Hoop, Advanced Step, and Free Step produced average calorie burning rates of 114, 111, 108 and 99 calories, respectively.

Researchers found that in all cases, performing an actual exercise activity rather than Wii Fit's virtual approximation resulted in "significantly higher" caloric expenditure. The Rhythm Boxing activity, in particular, burned one-third of the calories expended per minute of traditional boxing.

"While we found that playing the Wii Fit burns twice as many calories as a sedentary video game," said ACE's chief science officer Cedric X. Bryant, "the outcome of the study suggests that Wii Sports, the Wii's suite of exergames that includes tennis, boxing, golf and bowling, is a better option and more capable of helping consumers meet minimum intensity guidelines for exercise."

ACE's Wii Fit study tested men and women between the ages of 20-24 years old, and was led by John Porcari, Ph.D.; Carl Foster, Ph.D.; and Alexa Carroll, M.S. Wii Fit's various balance exercises were not tested during ACE's research.

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Duong Nguyen
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So the study is saying that the "play" versions of the sport only burn up 1/3 the calories of the real version. Who has time or space to do full contact boxing or sparing in their living room? or run a sprint in the confines of their living room? It's silly to use those metrics. The wii fit players will stick to their routine far longer than non-dedicated sports enthusiast who takes up any of those sports. In the long run they will burn up far more calories than someone who takes up real boxing for 1 month and quits.

Joseph Vasquez II
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When it's past midnight, you're in your underwear, it's raining like crazy and below 50 degrees outside, then try and tell me how many more calories I can burn by trying to do Island Run outside for real.


"players burning an average of 165 calories after 30 minutes of play" and

"we found that playing the Wii Fit burns twice as many calories as a sedentary video game."

I have a very hard time believing that I'm burning 82.5 calories every 30 mins while playing a sedentary game.

Danny Cowan
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Just to add my own perspective on this -- I very much doubt that the study examined the higher difficulty levels of the tested activities. Rhythm Boxing at the Novice level is barely a workout at all, and only has you punching a few times a minute. It tests your reflexes and footwork more than anything. On Expert, though, it's a genuinely demanding ten-minute stretch with complex punching patterns and a much faster tempo. I never broke a sweat on Novice. Expert is another story entirely.

Ignoring Wii Fit's strength activities was also a mistake, I think, since they're not just watered-down approximations of actual exercises. You're doing actual lunges, push-ups, and jackknifes, and you're getting the exact same results as you would without the Balance Board.

Russell Carroll
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"the outcome of the study suggests that Wii Sports, the Wii's suite of exergames that includes tennis, boxing, golf and bowling, is a better option and more capable of helping consumers meet minimum intensity guidelines for exercise"

I think, that though I have no idea how the study was done from this article, that it's certainly worth merit to study these things. This last quote is baffling to me though. They are saying that running in place while 'playing' WiiFit burns less calories and is provides less intensive exercise than tennis, bowling, or golf in WiiSports. Wha..?

I've played plenty of WiiSports, and though I occasionally break a sweat in baseball and boxing, I don't ever feel like I get my heart rate up.

In WiiFit, I usually need to do some cool-down exercises, and I've never done the free run in WiiFit without sweating. Also as mentioned, the strength exercises, such as doing push-ups weren't considered, but I'd call them pretty useful. Push-ups aren't a 'virtual exercise' though, so maybe they don't count? (What is a virtual approximation of exercise anyway? If I'm running in place in my living room aren't I exercising? How is that a virtual approximation of running? Free Step is simply stepping up and off of the balance is that virtual?)

Would be good to get some more information on the topic, especially from multiple sources. Some of the lines in this report make me pretty leery of their results.

Yoonsin Oh
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Ok. What's minimum intensity guidelines for exercise? If we look at the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, it says "do moderate to vigorous intensity of physical activity for 60 minutes everyday for children & adolescents or do them 150 minutes per week for active adults". In terms of the intensity, there are two ways to measure: absolute & relative intensity. Absolute intensity measure comes from metabolic equivalents (MET). The relative ones based on what performer rate the intensity. After all, from the guidelines, "brisk walking" is under moderate intensity of physical activity for both children and adults.

I get the Free run and Island run showed up the highest energy expenditure, because it's simply jogging in same place (unless you want to jog around your living room). I mean, isn't that essentially more than "brisk walk"? However, it doesn't meet the "minimum" guidelines? Someone needs to explain to me here.

It is very interesting to see this research results after reading UK government department of health endorsed Wii Fit Plus (Well- Wii Fit plus is not Wii Fit, but are they that different? ).

Russell Carroll
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WiiFit Plus is a much, much better game, and perhaps interestingly includes METs for the different exercises. The games/exercises from the original would test the same. Notably, the new games are more physically intensive than the games in the original (which were more focused on balance), but since they weren't looking at the games to begin with, I don't suppose it would have changed their findings any.

Dan McClellan
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The comment about Wii Sports being more beneficial than Wii Fit or Wii Fit Plus discounts the entire study to nil credibility. Wii Fit (& Plus) contain far more beneficial activities to one's entire physique and condition. All the activities in Wii Sports can be accomplished by repetitive wrist flicking never engaging any major muscle groups or the important smaller muscles used for finer balance control.

Wii Sports is a very enjoyable suite of activities and requires far more effort than any traditional video game but cannot be compared to Wii Fit in any rational manner.

BTW if you're worried about burning more calories Wii jogging, cycling, step aerobics etc... put on a 20 lb weighted vest or pick up a 10 lb weight in each hand (or both of the above) and go to work.