If you're thinking of buying a Wii this Christmas for health-related reasons, you may want to think again. A university study tracked eight families for six months to see if Nintendo's motion-driven console would affect their fitness levels, and found that the console "had little effect on family fitness".
The study, which began in autumn 2008 and was organised by a professor of health and exercise science at the University of Mississippi, hoped to determined whether software like Nintendo's Wii Fit (a hybrid game/fitness trainer) culminates in sufficient physical activity to improve family fitness. The university loaned Wii units with a copy of Wii Fit to eight families for three months, then tracked their fitness levels: three months without the system, then another three months with.
Families were rated on various metrics such as "aerobic fitness" and "balance and body composition", and pre-study fitness levels were established over a preliminary five-day period. Individual usage was tracked using system software, presumably meaning Wii Fit's personal tracking profiles (as opposed to something custom-made).
Intriguingly, daily time spent with Wii Fit declined by 82 percent per household over the course of the study, from 22 minutes a day during the first six weeks to only four minutes a day during the latter six. The study's conclusion: "Modest amounts of daily Wii Fit use may have provided insufficient stimulus for fitness changes."
According to the press release, the study found that children "did display a significant increase in aerobic fitness after three months of use", which would seem to be a pretty significant positive development. But here's where things get confusing. The release goes on to conclude that three months of Wii Fit use "revealed no significant changes in daily physical activity, muscular fitness, flexibility, balance or body composition for the family as a whole".
The operative phrase being "family as a whole", I suppose. Translation: kids experience significant aerobic benefits from exercise games such as Wii Fit, but... just reading between the lines here... adults don't? Did the two groups cancel each other out?
Common sense still applies: if your heart rate hits a certain level for a certain amount of time, you're going to benefit aerobically. Whether that's running in place and doing star jumps or swinging a remote control around in a way that gets your whole body going, you're probably doing more good than harm.