Welcome to Wii-Fit

There is a lot of buzz around Nintendo’s new Wii Fit and so I asked Jim Stubbs, a London-based Personal Trainer with Phoenix Exercise Professionals to give me his first-hand insight. What follows is Jim’s assessment of the Wii Fit as an interesting new exercise solution.

In summary, it seems to be disappointing both as a gamer and as a fitness tool. The actual technology is quite impressive and they have made a good job of employing it in the exercises/activities they have designed. The pressure sensors seems to be fairly accurate, although it may be a bit fragile and they constantly remind the user not to jump on it – not something I can see the younger users paying attention to! The exercises themselves are of a fairly usual type – lunges, squats, press-ups etc, but the problem is that even though they give some advice in terms of where your weight should be based on the floor sensor pad, the advice stops there. An image of the exercise runs on the screen so that the timing is correct, but I know from years of personal experience that even when people think they are doing what they have seen, they can still be way off the mark and that could lead to problems.

The Yoga exercises again, are fairly standard but you have the same problems as with the exercises – no real way of preventing poor and possibly damaging form. It may be no different to doing a class with 30 participants where the leader can hardly be expected to keep a good eye on everyone’s form, or a yoga or fitness DVD, but if you are going to profess that you are a legitimate exercise tool (which, by the references to university studies showing weight loss in users, they are), then you need to keep a professional and formal format throughout.

There is a fundamental problem here, which is that the original Wii was a way to introduce movement to gamers. A subtle way of getting them off the floor and moving around – really a sign of defeat that the message to exercise is not getting through and if you can’t beat them, trick them – so that people would be getting incidental exercise. They made it fun and you spent time playing games with the focus clearly away from how much movement was going on. The Wii-fit seems to be an awkward mix of making the gamers focus on exercise (which they hate), and the exercisers focus on gaming (which they hate). I like both personally, but exercise is exercise and gaming is gaming. If you want to make me move whilst I’m gaming then fantastic, but asking me to run on the spot chasing a character on a screen will never replacing putting on a pair of running shoes and getting some fresh air.

I can see where they are coming from and I can completely understand why they want a piece of the exercise market – it’s worth millions – I can even commend the idea that a gaming company wants to get people up and moving about, but if you dip your toe in the sea that calls itself exercise and health, you need to do it well. It’s such a minefield these days even for those of us that have been doing it for 12 years and are still learning new things all the time as they re-define terms and research.

The Wii-fit for me as a gamer takes out the fun of it and as a Personal Trainer removes the quality of advice and training available and is pandering a little bit to the idea that we can get fit and healthy without really paying attention to it. My worry is that people will see the Wii-fit as a solution to their health problems when it really offers only a fraction of what is needed and could even add to the problem. I think it misses the point for both gaming and exercise