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Paige Waehner

How Effective is Wii Fit?

By November 10, 2009

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Do you Wii? If so, you're not alone and, chances are, you use your Wii for workouts (wii-kouts?) and fitness and not just for games. At the beginning of this year, Wii Sports was touted as the most successful video game of all time and by June of this year, more than 20 million people bought Wii Fit. All this activity is great (and, of course, better than sitting around), but many people wonder: Just how effective is Wii Fit and what can you expect to accomplish?

I've talked to plenty of exercisers who've used Wii Fit and most agree - it's fun, it gets you moving, but it's a fairly mild workout that often falls short of being challenging. The American Council on Exercise agrees, having explored the efficacy of Wii Fit by recruiting 16 men and women, ages 20-24, to test things out. They focused on the most challenging activities including: Free Run, Island Run, Free Step, Advanced Step, Super Hula Hoops and Rhythm Boxing. The researchers monitored oxygen uptake (or VO2 Max), heart rate and rate of perceived exertion and found that:

  • The Island Run and Free Run had the highest energy expenditures, burning about 5.5 calories per minute. While these activities got the blood moving, researchers found that these moves weren't sufficient enough to improve endurance as defined by the ACSM. When played for 30 minutes, participants burned about 165 calories.
  • The Free Step, Advanced Step and the other activities studied burned about 3.3-3.8 calories per minute but, again, fell short of ACSM's fitness guidelines. When played for 30 minutes, participants burned about 99-114 calories.

Clearly, this study only involves a small group of people and a fairly narrow age group, so some people may indeed find Wii Fit to be challenging depending on their fitness level and situation. What Wii-xercisers do agree on is that Wii Fit is motivating. The interaction, the ability to track movements and the fun activities make it a favorite with a variety of populations. However, while Wii Fit is much better than being sedentary, you do need to more cardio and strength training if you want to meet the current exercise guidelines and manage your weight.

What do you think? Do you use Wii Fit and, if so, how effective do you think it is? Do you use it for exercise or do you do other activities to supplement it? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about Wii Fit.

Read the full ACE Wii study.

More Wii

November 10, 2009 at 7:33 am
(1) David says:

I have a wii fit and appreciate the programs ability to help me set goals, measure my results, and log my effort. I use my wii fit essentially as a journal. I bought an actual aerobics bench so I get a genuine workout. I put the remote in my pocket and workout while I watch TV or a DVD. I use the ‘free run’ program for thirty minutes while doing bench step aerobics. The wii motion sensors detect how vigorously I am moving and convert that effort into wii miles.

November 10, 2009 at 8:18 am
(2) Jane says:

We bought a Wii Fit last Christmas, and I really used it as a stepping stone (no pun intended) back into exercise as I had really let things slip prior to that. Seeing myself estimated as an 80-something year old woman because of my lack of balance prompted me to really think about my priorities!

I don’t weigh as much as I weighed last Christmas, and Wii Fit definitely prompted me to get going, and I still do the yoga and some of the strength moves, but I don’t use it for workout – I use our home gym equipment for that. If I put on Wii Fit it’s because I want a gentle workout, or to test my “age” – now hovering around the 20-something mark (I’m in my late 40′s).

November 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm
(3) fanny says:

I have a wii fit and love it, but they are right the cardio stuff not so cardio. What I do though for free step is put the wii board on a step, so its like 5 inches off the ground. I also do 5lb weights for my arms part of the time and go faster then the pace they have me at for a part of it too. So, I do feel it the next day. I also like it for the Yoga and strength training. If you get to the higher number of reps for the lunges and squats and do them right its a good push to do more then you might on your own.

That said, its not my only exercise. Its a peice of a bigger routine. It is a good reminder where I am, a place to check up. Its also a game, its just fun. I hear the plus is going to be better cause you can put together exercises and flow through a routine, instead of stopping to pick the next. But again, its only a peice of a larger workout plan. I don’t do it regular though (But if you go back in and haven’t done it in a long time it can be a real wiseass, which can be motivating) I also like the wii age thing, its good to see how your balance is, how your alignment is, etc.

November 11, 2009 at 6:14 am
(4) Richard says:

Wii Fit is not an effective cardio tool, but then again it was never meant to be. Don’t forget that Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Wii Fit) in an interview said:

“I forgot to mention something important earlier: I donít think Wii Fitís purpose is to make you fit”

The purpose of Wii Fit is to raise awareness and not directly fitness, but indirectly.

I’m disappointed that the studies that are carried out focus on the single game given the wide choice of exergames that do meet the guideline Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity level that ACE is looking for.

Take a look at this graph and you can see there’s plenty of video game exercise options, topping out at over 600 kcal per hour.

Is ACE setting exergaming up for a fall? Proving that it’s ineffective by picking on the weakest of the genre? Studies will only operate on funding and the agenda is set by the organization providing the funding.

November 11, 2009 at 9:12 am
(5) jamie says:

I bought the Wii fit for myself after Christmas. I am a stay at home mother of three with serious back problems and the yoga helped with my pain tremendously after about a week. I felt like my back was realigned and I was eventually able to do the other games and I really worked up a sweat!! The first week I lost 4 pounds. I’m sure it had alot to do with fact that I was pushing myself to get to the next higher level. You could say that I’m a perfectionist so if I didn’t like my score on ANY game, I would keep doing it. I think that how well it works on anybody depends on how much you push yourself. I don’t think that playing the games for 30 minutes will do much if you’re not tightening the right muscles like in any work out. It all depends on the person I guess. It’s been working great for me!

November 12, 2009 at 11:30 am
(6) TOM says:

I use the Wii Fit PLUS, and it gives me a great workout, I do the Yoga, Strength Training and cycle riding and I’m on the second level.

When I fininsh I’m covered in sweat and still cannot get all 22 flags.

Wii Fit Plus is a GREAT WORKOUT!!!!

November 12, 2009 at 11:52 am
(7) Tom says:

Let me add to my comment on the Wii Fit Plus, I’m 67 years old and workout three to four time a week!

November 17, 2009 at 12:35 am
(8) Glen says:

Although I lead a fairly active life and have never had a weight problem, I hadn’t been exercising regularly until something compelled me to try Wii Fit on my kids’ machine about 9 months ago. Over the course of about 2-3 months I dropped my BMI from 24 to 23 and my Wii Age by about 20 years (I’m in my late 50s). I did, however, find the Wii Fit’s pace a bit slow — not so much the exercises themselves, but the process of transitioning from exercise to exercise. I ended up switching to My Fitness Coach, which doesn’t use the Wii’s technology to its fullest, but because of that it isn’t hindered by the limits of its technology. With the addition of a heart rate monitor, some dumbbells, and a step, I have been able to greatly improve my cardiopulmonary fitness and muscular strength. As a result, I’ve been able to enjoy a challenging backpacking trip as well as a number of other outdoor pursuits, such as mountain biking, hiking, and snorkeling. I might never return to the Wii Fit, but it has made a big difference in my physical condition.

November 17, 2009 at 8:47 am
(9) harvey silverberg says:

I wear a heart rate monitor so I know how effective any exercise is at achieving goals. Rhythm boxing on the Wii fitness board achhieves 65-70% of my max heart rate. I use it as a third of my workout along with Nordic track-while watching a movie- and strength training. But Wii boxing is the highlight. Perhaps my age of 68 is a factor in the different results from your study with 20 year olds.

November 17, 2009 at 9:52 am
(10) Karen says:

I personnaly don’t use the Wii Fit and enjoy the motivation of fitness classes and cardio equipment at the gym. Having said that I know a lot of people who starting using Wii Fit as an exercise program when they have not exercised much in the past. Perhaps Wii Fit doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio machines, classes and weight training, but it does burn more than sitting on the couch. So in this manner I think it is very effective in giving people a comfortable environment to kick start their exercise routine and perhaps motivate them to make the life changes toward more regular exercise habits.

November 17, 2009 at 10:29 am
(11) Crystal says:

Wii Fit is good as a benchmarking tool for weight, BMI, etc, and has some good yoga/strength training. The problem is that it takes too long and too many clicks to get from one activity to another.

Wii Active has great exercises that are combined into 20-40 minute workouts with no stopping in between activities, which I think is a better and more comprehensive way to go for a “real” workout.

November 17, 2009 at 11:05 am
(12) Donna says:

Given the age range & number of participants in the study, I can see how they came to that conclusion. However, I purchased the Wii Fit Plus just over a week ago and have worked out every day (except one) in the past week. I have not consistently worked out in nearly 7 years and have a lot of weight to lose. This thing got me moving. In one week, I have lost 5 pounds, dropped my BMI a bit, and improved my Wii Fit Age by 11 years. It challenges you to do more and “beat” your score. It’s FUN and it has gotten me moving!

November 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(13) Suze says:

I too was disappointed AT FIRST however what the Wii Fit Plus has done for me is 1. opened my eyes re: my weight. I hid from the scale telling myself I wasn’t too bad. The Wii will flat out tell you the truth! 2. helped me understand the importance of balance. I was so off balance that the Wii jokingly asked “do you trip alot?” and I had just fallen a few days before 3. gets me excited to track my activity levels both on the Wii and off. Don’t underestimate the motivation of stamping that calender! and lastly 4. has gotten me jogging! I never thought I’d be a jogger but starting out slow with the 3 minute jogs has built a solid foundation and this morning I ran 30 minutes!!!

January 16, 2010 at 10:31 am
(14) Leslie says:

I purchased a Wii Fit in September, weighing in at just over 54 kg (I am just under 5 feet tall). Although not overweight, at 46 I was definitely leaning toward “chunky” and was determined to use the Wii Fit for at least 30 mins/at least 5 out of 7 days a week. I did this for several weeks and gradually felt more fit, more coordinated, more strong and by Dec weighed 50-51 kg.
During Christmas I worked out with my 65-year-old Mom who had bought hers in November. She has not yet lost any weight, but is feeling more fit, strong and balanced. She has not changed her diet (which seems to me to have too-high a calorie intake, and more sugar than my mom will acknowledge.) Her system is the Wii Fit Plus, and when I returned home I bought the upgrade as I enjoy the expanded menu of activities, which don’t feel like exercise (but they are) because they’re a heck of a lot of fun.
I was also given the EA Sports Active package for Christmas, and have added this to my routine (the exercises are a bit more vigorous/strenouse than those in the Wii Fit Plus).
My regular routine is for at least five of seven days per week I do a min. of 45 and up to 120 (1x or 2x) and I am at a firm 50 kg and my diet is not restricted (although I do try to think about calorie intake and minimize the late-night sweet snacks).
I would highly recommend the Wii Fit. Not only have I experienced real benefits, but the fact that my Mom has become dedicated to it will mean a healthier and happier Mom – and the grandkids also join in.
Five Stars.

January 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm
(15) Christy says:

I got Wii Fit for Christmas and I think it’s great! I haven’t worked out regularly since high school. A was always thin growing up until I reached my mid-twenties (I’m now 27). My eating habits and non-active life style caught up with me. I knew I should lose weight, but just couldn’t get motivated. That was until I stepped on the balance board and saw that dreaded word: Overweight.

Not only do I now work out at least an hour every day on Wii Fit, I also watch what I eat. Since I began using Wii Fit about a month ago, I have lost about 12 lbs. My goal is 20! I don’t do any other exercise. So, I’d say it is definitely effective and the best part is how motivated it has made me!

February 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm
(16) Cheryl Phillips says:

Have been using Wii Fit Plus since about January 8th. Never being one to work out, I am 45 and overweight. So far I have lost 13 lbs. I have found it to be fun and motivating. It may not fill my needs forever but it has given me a great start and I hope to use it to keep getting closer to my goal!

March 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm
(17) niki says:

It may not be the most intensive workout you can get but It gets you going! and anything is better than nothing.

February 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm
(18) Marissa says:

I used wii fit over the course of a summer (about three months) and the results were phenomenal. I lost about thirty pounds thanks to the step activities on the wii fit. I also dieted while using wii fit, and did small things like crunches at home to aid my results, but overall, the wii fit was successful in helping me lose weight

July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm
(19) christina says:

i started using the wii fit in june and that month i have lost 15lbs and i do 40 min of free run and 30 min of boxing and 10 min of hula hooping i like the wii fit because it help you acknowledge the fat that you are obese or overweight and that gave me motivation i still have 26lbs to go but with the wii it is possible

December 26, 2011 at 8:35 pm
(20) Jennifer says:

For me, the Wii Fit is amazing. After moving across country, starting a new job and buying a fixer-upper…plus my mother in law living with me for 7 months…I found myself in a depression. It was bad enough that I felt anxious, tired, and down nearly constantly. Things I found fun and challenging were no longer fun and just, well challenging and more to add to my already heavy load. Using the Wii honestly snapped me out of it. Getting the blood and oxygen pumping through my body and having fun with the Wii Fit activities has relieved my depression. I won’t let a day go by without using it. It is my cure.

January 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm
(21) Bee says:

I’m a 34 y/o female. I’m 5’7 and when i started doing 30 minutes of free step daily I weighed 148 pounds. Two weeks later, with no dietary changes I weigh 5 pounds less, at 143. So, for me, it works. My pants are looser and I feel like I am getting a benefit from it. :)

July 6, 2012 at 3:50 am
(22) Wiifituser says:

I do free step or free run whenever I’m watching tv, and I do some of the “mind exercises” for fun, but my main workout = running for 40 minutes everyday. The wiifitness is great for people looking to start exercising or for people who want to add to their main workout (it’s better than watching tv sitting down). I do think that people should move on to more advanced workouts as they get more experienced because the wiifitness just isn’t enough (I’m thinking that they didn’t want people to get hurt physically so they made it really mild as to avoid possible bad press)

July 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm
(23) Jordan says:

I workout 4 days a week, doing weights and ab workouts, as well as frequently running. i use wii fit so im not just sitting around on my rest days, and i personally really like it! i like the interface, the motivation, i am currently looking to get wii fit plus!

December 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm
(24) martin says:

I have been using Wii Fit since August 2013. I live in a small village on the North Slope of Alaska and cannot get outside so have to find things indoors. This is the perfect solution for me. I have lost15 pounds and am in much better physical than I have been in years. I’m in my 50′s. I do like mixing the games up with “Walk It Out”, and several dance games. I added a riser to the balance board for a true step for step aerobics. That has greatly increase my level of effort. If it were possible to be outside, I would be outside, but for dark arctic winters, the weather doesn’t matter any more. This is perfect for me.

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