Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Trainer's Take on Wii Fit

What do you think of the Wii? That is one of the the questions I hear a lot these days. I don't own a Wii but, recently I had a chance to give it a try. There were some things like really liked about it and some I didn't.

The Wii Fit program starts you off by taking you through a setup process in which you pick an avatar called a Mii and then it weighs you, calculates your BMI. It puts you through some tests and evaluates your balance, calculates your "Wii age" and tells you what your recommended weight is. All in all I thought the set up was pretty cool. I also like that the Wii will keep track of your progress over time, an accountability element that can really help people stick with a workout program.

There are some programs that will get your heart rate up. The Wii gets you moving with boxing, a step routine and an obstacle course that was super fun. I was so focused on getting through the course I didn't even realize how active my body was until afterward and I realized my breathing and heart rate were up a little. The only issue was that after about 30 seconds or so I would find that I was starting to walk off the platform. Maybe I would learn not to "travel" over time but, it seemed like it would be nice if the platform had some kind of guide or bumper to keep you from walking off the platform. Maybe next version.

I only got a quick look at the Yoga section but, it looked like they had a good selection of basic exercises. I did try doing Plank. It keeps track of whether you're centered as you do the exercise with your forearms resting on the balance board. Tyring to keep the red dot in the center brought a little bit of a fun, game aspect to the exercise.

I got to try the easy and hard versions of one of the strength training programs. I saw a couple of the instructional segments on how to do specific exercises with proper form. It was good to see those and I thought they were well done, covering the important form points. I went through some squats and some side lunges. I thought the exercise where you do a side lunge and then touch the floor was a questionable choice. Doing a side lunge is fine, but having people bend forward from that position could cause back strain.

I was a little disappointed in the hard level strength training program. I didn't go through the whole thing but it seemed to start out as pretty much the same as the easy program just adding reps. The deal real problem I found in the hard program was the pace which was excruciatingly slow. I could have gone out and run errands between lunges (OK, not really but, I think you get the picture). To make it worse, if you went faster than your Wii trainer it would pause even longer to stop and scold you for going too fast. I believe in doing exercises at a slow controlled pace but, this was ridiculous. Going as slow as they wanted was a definite loss in terms of calorie burn. Maybe there's a way to set the pace to go a little faster?

While I didn't get to spend a ton of time playing with the Wii, I do think I got the gist of it. I think it's a great start for people who are currently in the couch potato category. It may also be a good way for people who have never done any strength training to get a taste of it and learn some of the basic exercises. For exercisers beyond beginner level, this really isn't going to advance you in your fitness goals. However, the games are fun and anything that gets you up off the couch and moving is probably a good thing.


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