Posted by: B | 2008-12-16

From Couch Potato to Carpet Polisher

Hi dr Ross -

What is your opinion on the actual effectiveness of something like Wii fitness? Over the weekend I visited friends and we played a lot of tennis, and now my arm is aching the way it does after I play REAL tennis, but somehow it feels so....fake....because all I actually DID was wave around my arm and uttered some (fake) grunts....
My common sense tells me that the fitness benefits of this thing is HIGHLY overrated, but people buy into it as if they' ve got no brains at all.

What do you think?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

Hi B

Good question.

I played on the wii when it came out, I was asked by a journalist to give an opinion on it, but hadn't ever seen it, so she had me play for a morning, both on the fitness games and the sport games.

I was very impressed with teh Fitness Games, especially the balance pad and the balance games, for elderly people, people who have had serious injuries, strokes, or people who have a history of being completely inactive. I think for those specific groups, it is probably an excellent tool. If I was a biokineticist, I would be using it already - stroke victims, elderly and injury rehabilitation for children especially.

On the sports side, I think it's an interesting way for children who would rather play computer games to be exposed to something more active. When you ask the question "Is it better than sitting on a couch playing Playstation Games?", then the answer is a resounding yes, and so it again scores well.

However, what Nintendo (and others) have done is make it out to sound like exercise, and it's not. So I agree with you 100% there. The comparision between Wii games and real exercise is not a very good one, and it is over-rated in that regard.

So what seems to have happened (as usual), is that the marketers have thrown their voice behind it and over-sold it - it has gone from being a really good tool for certain groups to exercise, to an alternative to exercise. It's not that - it's an alternative to playing other types of TV games, or watching TV. They should be promoting it as a "start up", a step towards getting active outside.

Not all bad then, some excellent applications, but not for the replacement of exercise and real sport.


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