Published August 5, 2007

Nintendo Wii - Fitness Friend or Foe?

by Helen M. Ryan

We have video game systems in my house. A lot of them. Playstation 2, GameCube, Nintendo DS. So it was a hard sell to get me to purchase yet an additional system - the Nintendo Wii. I didn't want another reason for my kids to sit around. According to the American Obesity Society, 30% of American children are overweight and 15% of American children are actually obese, with the numbers steadily rising. Lack of exercise is a contributing factor. And yes - the personal trainer's children hate to exercise. Wii or not to Wii? That was the question.

I did decided to give the Wii a chance and purchased it for my son's 11th birthday. The Pokemon game allows you to just sit there as usual - no surprise. But the Wii Sports game gets children actively involved. My daughter loved the "fitness tests" for each sport (bowling, boxing, tennis, baseball) and did very well. She kept working at it until she lowered her Wii Fitness Age (a good thing). My son (who hates to move an inch) actually boxed until he was sweaty and his arms were tired. Then mommy gave it a shot. Who knew I had such a powerful right hook? My daughter was squealing with delight as I smashed the virtual bag to smithereens, increasing her score, and my son was proud that "mommy was finally playing video games." I was so inspired by the boxing I've decided to get a free-standing boxing bag and some gloves. Can you say "stress relief?"
My verdict? If they play more "active" games the Wii can contribute towards daily exercise goals. But it's still hard getting them off the couch. The "couch potato" games are favorites. We have decided as a group to allow an extra 15 minutes of video games (any kind) in exchange for 30 minutes of Wii Sports a day. It's not huge - but it's a start.