Sure, exercise is good for you. The only problem for many people is the part where you have to get up and actually move around. But what if you could turn the activity into a fun game?
That's the idea behind "Wii Fit," the latest sensation from Nintendo, coming Wednesday for its hot Wii video-game console. Anyone who has experienced the Wii's motion-controlled games knows that playing them can be quite a workout, but "Wii Fit" takes that concept to a whole new level of exhaustion. The goal is to make physical fitness fun for the whole family.
The $90 package includes a game disc and the main component of "Wii Fit," a hefty balancing board -- similar to the platform used for step aerobics. The wireless accessory basically is a sophisticated, floor-based game controller. It senses your weight and movement as you step on it and uses that data to control onscreen games and exercises designed to improve your balance, posture and fitness.
I've never done yoga or aerobics, and I don't care for health club-style workouts on machines. I've always preferred actually doing something, such as playing racquetball. But I'm game for "Wii Fit." So I set it up and give it a go.
Time for some testing
The first thing I see on the screen is an animated version of the balancing board along with overly cute music and voices -- a sure sign that Nintendo is behind "Wii Fit." It wants to know my height and birth date, so I enter the info.
After some mumbo jumbo about why it's important to have good posture, I'm prompted to step on the board to measure my center of balance. It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I'm a little off-balance -- slightly favoring my right side. Perhaps I'd like to do a Basic Balance Test, it suggests.
So I lean to the left. I lean to the right. I'm trying to get two opposing bars to remain stationary in a designated area on the screen by shifting my weight just so, but by the time I figure out how to do it, my 30-second limit has expired. I don't finish the fifth and final round.
"Looks like the Basic Balance Test isn't your forte," the screen says. "Do you find yourself tripping when you walk?"
Oh, OK -- "Wii Fit" is a smart aleck, too.
The board then weighs me. It calculates my Body Mass Index (BMI) at 27.33. Anything over 25 is overweight. Dang.
Based on my test results and actual age, it calculates my "Wii Fit" age as 53. What? That's 10 years older than I really am. I might technically be overweight, but I'm fairly fit.
It's obvious what I need to do: Reset the game system and start from scratch again.
Finding a workout regimen
OK, that's better. Without the time wasted trying to figure out how to do the Basic Balance Test, it is now my forte. After a recalculation, my "Wii Fit" age is 34.
"That means your body is still in pretty good condition," it tells me.
I know, I know.
Unfortunately, my BMI is still about 27. I could stand to lose about 13 pounds.
"Wii Fit" can help me lose those pounds through four types of exercise: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. Better yet, it will keep track of what I do and how much time I spend on them. I can enter a target date on a calendar and it will help make sure I stay on track to meet my goal.
A basic selection of activities is offered in each exercise category. I earn points based on my performances. As I do better and log enough minutes, more activities and tougher challenges become available. This gamelike approach, even on straightforward exercises such as yoga, helps take my mind off the monotony of exercising.
Because they should now be my forte, I try the balance games first, which include virtually head-butting soccer balls and spinning Hula-Hoops.
The most fun is Ski Jump. I bend my knees and lean forward slightly, trying to keep my balance rock steady as my Mii (the Wii's onscreen version of me) skis down a ramp. Just before the end of it, I quickly stand straight and hold still as my Mii launches off the ramp and glides through the air. A long jump brings cheers from the virtual crowd. Thank you!
Under aerobics, I try the basic step routine, which works much like the popular video game "Dance Dance Revolution." Following an onscreen class of dancers and screen prompts, I step on and off the balancing board in time to the music. I do OK, I think, with my steps getting a Perfect rating 92 times, an OK rating 64 times and a Miss eight times -- for 248 points. But that's only good enough for two out of four stars on the Calorie Roaster Scale.
In the yoga section, the typical Nintendo cutesiness is wisely abandoned. A realistic-looking human instructor demonstrates how the routines are done and New Age music plays. I opt for the Tree Pose, in which I stand on one leg for 30 to 40 seconds, with my free foot placed on my locked knee, and slowly raise my clasped hands above my head as instructed.
No problem. But I'm rated as just a Yoga Novice. It's that darn balance problem again. The board knows my weight continually shifted as I struggled to hold the pose. I can even see a graphic representation of it on the screen.
I fare little better under strength training, which also gets a serious presentation. While doing leg extensions, in which I must stand on one leg while stretching backward and forward with my opposing leg and arm, respectively, I have to put my foot down to keep from falling over. "Wii Fit" knows I did that, which affects my score: Couch Potato.
OK, so I'm unbalanced. I don't know if I needed "Wii Fit" to tell me that, but it might help me to correct the problem. In the process, I might just become more physically fit and lose some weight if I stick with it. And the game will keep track of everything for me and up to seven other people.
Sure, there are other ways to keep fit, but "Wii Fit" makes it fun and easy -- even for those who are unbalanced.
Randy A. Salas 612-673-4542