Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Sports

Your children are nagging you to buy a Nintendo Wii. They claim it will be good for them. Unlike the X-Box 360 or Playstation 3, the Wii means exercise and movement and not sitting around pushing buttons. But how much exercise can you get from playing Wii Sports? Will it help burn those calories?

Fear not, your questions are now answered thanks to research published in the British Medical Journal this month. In a small study of just eleven children, researchers examined the calories burnt playing Wii Sports (Bowling, Tennis and Boxing) and Project Gotham Racing 3 on the X-Box 360. Unsurprisingly the children used more energy playing on the Wii.

Wii Sorts Bowling Wii Sorts Tennis Wii Sorts Boxing X-Box Project Gotham Racing 3
Energy Used
( KiloJoules per Kilogram per Minute)
22.2 31.5 33.9 13.7

As can be seen from the results, playing Wii Sports requires more energy than playing on a traditional games console. But, and its a big but, the intensity of the exercise when playing on the Wii is not high enough to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children. The Wii is not a replacement for playing real sports.

Note: This was a small study on children around 14 years old and its results should be treated with caution. It also only looked at specific Wii Sport activities. Other Wii games may burn more or less energy and this study is no guide as to how many calories Wii Fit will burn.

Study:
Comparison of energy expenditure in adolescents when playing new generation and sedentary computer games: cross sectional study

Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Sports

The GZ PC-Sport falls into the same class of exercise+gaming as the Wii Fit. However rather than being a game by its self, it is a stepping machine that plugs into your PC, Wii, XBox 360 or PS3 and if you don’t keep up a regular rhythm your PC will stop responding. This is a great way to exercise whilst doing something enjoyable.

Though it is only a stepping machine, it does also have some cerebellum training aspects to it. An undeveloped cerebellum struggles to move the limbs independently of each other. Playing any game using the GZ PC-Sport and you will have to move fingers and hands to move the games and the legs to work the stepper. This is harder than is sounds, much like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Combined with the Wii and Wii Sports where you have to move your arms and this becomes another weapon in the arsenal for developing your cerebellum.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Music, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

The Corpus Callosum is a large structure in the brain that connects the two hemispheres. Its roll is to pass information from the left hemisphere to the right and vice versa. This is a vital as the two hemispheres perform different tasks and need to communicate efficiently. The Corpus Callosum has been linked by scientists to dyslexia and ADHD for a long time. They theorize that the problems in these conditions may be caused by insufficient information passing between the two halves of the brain.

Plenty of research has been done on the size of the Corpus Callosum in dyslexics and in children with ADHD and the results have generally found a correlation. Its seems that the anterior region of the Corpus Callosum was significantly smaller in the dyslexic children. However the results are not clear cut with at least one study has found no difference in dyslexic versus non-dyslexic children and another study on adult, male dyslexics found areas of the Corpus Callosum were larger that normal.

These variation in results may have several causes. How the study defines dyslexia when selecting there sample population may make an impact. The sophistication of the equipment used is important. Some of these studies date back to the early 1990’s when fMRI technology was still new so the ability to accurately measure the Corpus Callosum may of been poorer. Our knowledge of the brains structure has also improved and later studies have tended to focus on specific areas of the Corpus Callosum, partially areas linked to the processing of sounds. However, with a lot of maybes and provisos it does look like the Corpus Callosum in dyslexic and ADHD children is subtly different.

Being able to efficiently pass information from one half of the brain to the other is vital. Much like a road between to busy cities. The better the road, the more information, wealth and trade will flow between the cities. So in dyslexic and ADHD children this road may be poor and restricting vital traffic. But there is hope that this roadway can be improved.

Its has been found that the Corpus Callosum was larger in professional musicians than in non-musicians. Playing instruments involves a lot of cross hemisphere processing to keep both hand’s movements in time with each other. This suggest that by regular practice the Corpus Callosum can be strengthen. The Dore Program, Interactive Metronome and primitive reflex based treatments such as INPP all involve cross-lateral movements designed to train this area of the brain. Other activities may also help. Such as computer games like Wii Drums and some aspects of Wii Fit may also help.

If you would like to try out your Corpus Callosum, have a look at this test on Mind Hacks. You will need a friend to help you but otherwise it is an extremely simple demonstration of what the Corpus Callosum does.

Studies

Dyslexia and corpus callosum morphology
Magnetic resonance imaging of the corpus callosum in developmental dyslexia
Corpus callosum morphology, as measured with MRI, in dyslexic men
Developmental Dyslexia: Re-Evaluation of the Corpus callosum in Male Adults
Less developed corpus callosum in dyslexic subjects—a structural MRI study
Increased corpus callosum size in musicians

Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

More Videos on the Wii Fit

GameTrailers.com have a host of Wii Fit videos to watch. The downside is that most of them are in Japanese. This isn’t much of a problem as you can learn practically everything just by watching them play the game. The video below shows how to set up your account on the Wii as it weighs you and calculates your Body Mass Index. It then demonstrates the some of the mini-games including the snow boarding.

The video also shows how the Wii Fit can be serious fitness tool. It shows the yoga, the push ups, jogging and the step-aerobics. You also see a how the Wii tracks your fitness levels, showing graphs of your BMI and how you and your family can compare graphs.

There are loads more videos on the Wii Fit to see. In fact over twenty. This is the big list of Wii Videos, mostly TV adverts. One seems to demonstrate a meditation mode were you sit on the Wii fitness board. Other, longer videos focus on the physical exercises and give a good insight into how the Wii monitors what you are doing and gives you feed back. In the video on jogging it shows that you place the Wii Remote into your pocket and the Wii tracks its movements in the same way a pedometer works. In other videos you can see how both the Wii controllers are combined with the balance board for boxing game.

Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

Whilst digging out more information on the Wii Fit for yesterday’s article I found this video on You Tube. Its a remix of Nintendo’s trailer for it fitness product but with a different voice over. Its well done and well worth a look.

Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

What is Wii Fit?

Wii Fit is a new product for the Nintendo Wii console due to be released later this year. It is designed to be a fun and effective way for the whole family to exercise. It uses a new accessory for the Wii, the Wii Balance Board. A plastic rectangle (approximately 1 foot by 2 foot) that not only senses when you are standing on it but also how you are standing on it. It will detect if you are standing on one leg, leading forwards or any other movements such as heading a ball. The technology in this is similar to posturgraph used to diagnoses medical problems ranging form dyslexia to dementia.

What do I get when I buy a Wii Fit?

Nintendo haven’t announced all the details for the US and Europe releases of the Wii Fit. (See below for the release dates). However the Japanese version is on sale. The two main parts are the software and the balance board. The software loads into the Wii just like any other console game. The board is solid plastic and comes with four AA batteries to enable the wireless link to the games console. Setting up is simple. Load the software into the Wii and it will detect the balance board.

The Wii Fitness Games

Once everything is unpacked and installed, what can you do with the Wii Fit? The important thing to note is that this is not a game, or at least not a normal game. It is a fitness tool. With a normal Wii game, you buy it, play it for several hours a day for a couple of weeks until you have finished it. Wii Fitness isn’t like that. Its like having a personal training and a gym. First you enter you details such as your age and height, then it assesses your current level of fitness using a few simple tests. After that you either follow the training program the Wii suggests or make up your own but just like any fitness training its about doing a small amount everyday for months. So the the fitness games are not really games but ways of encouraging you to exercise and tracking the results.

There are four types of ‘Fitness Games’ in Wii Fit. These are Aerobic Exercise, Muscle Conditioning, Yoga Poses, and Balance Games. These focus on slow, controlled exercise that develop general fitness and core muscle strength rather than big muscles. The aerobic exercises include pushups, jogging and step-aerobics in time to music. The use of music and rhythm means the game will be training your brain as well as your body and this can have benefits in the classroom. Muscle conditioning is done through simple games that focus on one particular muscle group. Such as the Hula Hoop game that works the abdomen. The yoga poses game is exactly what it says. The Wii console directs you to stand, move and hold in various yoga poses. Finally the balance games are the most accessible and ‘fun’ part of the package. Simple games like heading footballs whilst dodging other missiles or tightrope walking all strengthen the vestibular (the inner ear that controls balances) as well the muscles that keep you upright.

Wii as a Fitness Tool

The Nintendo Wii with Wii Sports and Wii Fit can be an effective fitness tool but they are not a silver bullet for getting fit. Fitness is gained through regular exercise and a healthy diet. No pill, no gadget, no diet is every going to make you fit without you putting in hard work over a number of months. If anyone tells you anything different then they are trying to sell you something. However the three biggest handicaps to getting fit is lack of knowledge, boredom and lack of progress. And this is where the Wii fit can help as a fitness tool.

Because the Wii Fit guides you through an exercise program you do not need to know anything. It doesn’t matter if you think Abs and Pecs are comedy double act. If you follow the program you will become fitter and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Going to a gym for the first time can be intimidating with lots of jargon and complicated machines. With the Wii you can do fitness training in your own home, becoming fit and learning about fitness at your own pace. For some people, this alone will make the Wii an effective fitness tool.

Doing exercise is hard work so unless you get some pleasure out of it, most people will give up after a few days. After all, we have jobs where we have to work hard but we get paid for that. Here is where the Wii Fit earns its money as a fitness tool. Especially for children and the lazy who think exercise is something other people do. Admittedly its hard to make press-ups fun but by having a variety of different types of press-ups the console can keep setting new challengers. To sugar the pill of hard exercise, the more light hearted games such as tight-rope walking and hula hoops are there. These mean that in a twenty minute exercise program you may only spend three minutes doing obvious exercises. This doesn’t mean that the more gentle fitness games are not helping you. Health and fitness depend on the brain as much as the body and games such as Heading the Ball improve muscle tone, balance and mental agility all at the same time.

One of the hardest parts of an exercise program is the simple fact it take time. This is why products are often sold with claims of ‘I lost 10 pounds in a week’ from satisfied customers. If we work hard we want to see the results straightway. Unfortunately the body doesn’t work that quickly. If you want to loose a couple of stone quickly your only option is to cut off a leg. Here is where Wii Fit helps as a fitness tool. It tracks your fitness level constantly, so you can see the progress you are making. It may be slow progress but its visible progress and you can compare it with your friends or family. This helps in setting achievable goals, one of the most important motivation aspects of fitness training.

Overall, Wii Fit is a fitness tool that works as long as you put in the work. It will not make you fitter over night. It will not solve all your health problems. If you are willing to use it everyday for several months then the Wii will be a good tool for making you healthier.

Where can I buy Wii Fit?

Assuming you already have a Wii then buying Wii Fit will be easy. It will be carried in all the main video game shops because when it was launch in Japan it sold over a million units in the first few days. It is possible to buy import version of Wii Fitness though these can be problematic if you don’t have an import Nintendo Wii.

What is the Wii Fit Release Date

The Japanese release date was the 1st December 2007 but the Wii Fit release dates for the US and Europe haven’t been confirmed but its widely rumored to be the 20th May 2008 in the US. The European release date is likely to be in the summer of 2008. Part of the reason for the delay in US release date is that American’s are fatter than Japanese people. The original version of the balance board was only strong enough for a 300 pound person. For the the Western market (USA & Europe) a slightly larger board capable of supporting a 330 pound person is being used.

What is the Wii Fit Price?

The Japanese version of Wii fit sold for 8,800 yen. That is the equivalent of $79 US or £40 UK. Its doubtful that the US or UK version price will be much different. With the cost of the two years spent developing the board plus the 12 months developing the software and not to mention the production costs, it doubtful that Wii Fit will make much money. However it will encourage a whole range of people to buy a Wii who would never of thought of buying one before. Once a Wii is in the house, more games will be purchased for it and this is where Nintendo really make the money.

The Future of Wii Fit

There is a danger that Wii Fit will be seen just a toy. A fad that comes and goes. But it could easily be the breakthrough product for digital fitness. Its success depends a lot on how Nintendo support its fitness product. If they continue to release new exercises and games (like Sony does with its Singstar range) then it will have long term success and be seen as fitness tool.

Wii Fit Pre-order

Amazon are not yet taking orders but if you click here: Wii Fit; you can register your interest. You will be then be contacted when a release date and prices is announced and given an opportunity to pre-order.

Wii Fit Videos

Check out these Wii Fit videos:
Wii Fit official trailer
Wii Fit Demo at E3 and part 2
Trying the Wii Fit
Wii Fit taken for a spin
Unpacking the Wii Fit