Thursday, May 15

Wii Fit - What are People Doing Wrong?

Nintendo, We Have a Problem!

Today one of my colleagues was in conversation with a national newspaper journalist when the inevitable comparison between Gamercize and Wii Fit came up. This in itself is not surprising, because Gamercize is based on cardiovascular fitness machines, and Wii Fit has "Fit" in the name (and herein lies part of the problem).

Nintendo has been great news for Gamercize. We love you guys! You have raised awareness of the possibility of using video games to keep fit. Without the good intentions of the Wii, I doubt Gamercize would be in so many homes, schools, offices and gyms across the world.

I'm fully aware of the customer comments from Gamercize customers, and I feel pretty good about how we are changing peoples lives for the better. I thought it was worth looking out for Wii Fit success stories, just to boost the exergaming feel good factor!

I searched for blogs that had "Wii Fit" and "Day 1" or "Diary"; when the results came back, I am sorry to say, I was in for a shock and there is a sad story to tell; Wii Fit is not working. People are actually getting worse in fitness terms or gaining weight or seeing their BMI go up, not down. So much for feeling good about exergaming!

A lot of blogs have Day 1, up to Day 4 or so and then a week of no posts before changing the subject and having posts about other things. Only one blog I have read has a success story, but that was only due to the extra exercise being done outdoors and with swimming.

I was in a very good mood, but these stories are thoroughly depressing, so I gave up looking for any more. The ramifications for exergaming of such a high profile failure are very bad. But Wii Fit includes plenty of exercise ideas, so what is the problem or what are people doing wrong?

What my colleague had said in conversation earlier came back to me:

"With Gamercize your mind is 100% in the game, and the exercise is automatic - only becoming noticeable if you stop, which pauses the game. With Wii Fit the game is 100% exercise, it's just not sustainable and its just too easy to get bored or distracted."

That's OK for Gamercize, we know that when the next big title is released, the hours of gameplay go up and the weight comes off. Not so good for Wii Fit though. 100% Exercise as an approach which falls into the same category as the unused exercise bike in the bedroom, the rower in the garage or the weights at the back of the wardrobe.

I think the 100% exercise approach explains the diaries that start off with good intentions, only to be replaced with Mario Kart Wii or any other great game titles. One blogger explained that because Mario Kart was in the Wii when it was turned on there wasn't much point in changing discs!

However, it does not explain the people trying for weeks and getting nowhere with Wii Fit. I think the problem is the hype before release making people believe they can eat what they like, never exercise again (apart from using Wii Fit) and magically they will loose weight and become overnight sports stars.

Don't forget that Nintendo officials and even the game designer say Wii Fit will not get you fit. Wii Fit adverts on TV warn that weight loss is only possible with a calorie controlled diet. Advice from designer Shigeru Miyamoto encourages people to track their health and fitness and use this knowledge for a more healthy and active lifestyle.

I would also add that weighing oneself every day is not a good idea. You should only do this once every two weeks or so as weight varies naturally over this time period. Wii Fit is not a single one step fix, give it time. If you are not motivated then try one of the other exergaming options that actually involves popular video game titles.

I hope that what has been achieved with exergaming so far is not damaged beyond repair with Wii Fit. I do hope Wii Fit is properly understood, used by the people it was intended for and generates the (health) success it deserves. A respected medical expert view echoes this post:

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, says of Wii Fit
"One of my bigger concerns is that it teaches that physical activity is not a part of your everyday routine," he said. "I can't see children sustaining this for very long. At best it will be a novelty for a few hours or a few days, even."

I would love to hear your stories about your own personal health benefits of Wii Fit. If you have sustained use for four weeks or more and noticed the difference to your life, not just your BMI, then post a comment and help us out here!


Dr. Ernie "Exertainment Evangelist" Medina, Jr. said...

Interesting "research" as to the impact of Wii Fit on fitness, health, and weight. I don't dispute the findings, or even the expert observations. However, I'm more optimistic that exergaming will NOT be damaged by the "mis-use" and mis-understanding of the Wii Fit, just like the "studies" that have come out showing the Wii doesn't qualify as "real" exercise.

Having worked with weight loss in a clinical setting for both adults and kids for the last 15 years, I see exergaming as a "gateway intervention to PA". It is reaching people who might otherwise not exercise at all. To compare most exergames to traditional exercise is not appropriate because the kids I'm seeing in the clinic for weight hate PE and will not join the local soccer or swim team.

So exergaming, as an intervention, is great way to get them to do "stealth" exercise, and anyone who has actually used exergames in a pediatric weight loss setting (like we do at both the XRtainment Zone and Beaver Medical Group) know that it DOES work and qualify as exercise.

We have overweight kids who can't even keep running the whole 5 mins. on the Xavix Jackie Chan run, but they keep going anyway because they want to get a high score, stomp the ninjas, etc.

I've played a few games on the Wii Fit and think it's a welcome addition to the exergaming tool set because it provides exergames in strength, balance, and yoga, where there have been few exergames out there in this area.

Total fitness is not just cardio, but includes flexibility and strength (which also includes balance). I'm glad the Wii Fit addresses these areas of fitness! And it was fun to earn minutes in our bank so we could unlock new games.

All of these exergames have their place in getting the hard-to-motivate kids to be more physically active, so I'm optimistic for the Wii Fit! (This, of course, is a fully biased statement because as the exergaming evangelist, I see it optimistically!)

gamercize @ said...

Thank you Ernie, for both your comment and optimism - is most welcome!

Hopefully people introduced into exergaming by wii fit will also realise it’s just a small part of a much bigger picture - which also includes taking a healthy approach!

Who knows, we may see the XTRZ Healthy Pizza in the stores before long!?

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with what your research shows. I believe that Wii Fit has it's place in the world of exercise. I can't believe you based your research on blogs that had 1 to 4 day diaries. It takes more than a few days to see any progress with I believe your research is faulty.

I am a 53 year old disabled person that lives out in the country and cannot possibly play any team sports, cannot run or even walk on rough terrain and my home is too small to facilitate a treadmill or any other exercise equipment. I didn't I get much exercise other than gardening, lawn care and housework prior to the Wii. Granted, other Wii games have helped some.

I have been using the Wii Fit since May 21, 2008 and have only missed two or three days, which were days I did gardening. I have lost 10 lbs without changing my diet (I was already on a heart healthy diet for a couple of years, but had quit smoking a year ago and put on a lot of weight this past year). My posture is better and I am also feeling much better since I started my Wii Fit exercising. I am not obese, just overweight, and according to the Wii Fit graphs only need to lose another 6 lbs to be considered in the normal range. I would like to get down to the middle of the normal range which means I will have to lose another 10 or so on top of that 6. If I continue the way I have been, which I have no intention of stopping, I should have that gone before fall.

I am sure that the aerobics have helped with my cholesteral and my blood pressure as well. My cholesteral had been very high, 239 with only an HDL of 31. The total had gone down some since November, but the HDL still was very low. Since using the Wii Fit for a month, my cholesteral is now only 161 and my HDL is up to 51. My blood pressure was bordering on being high and now it is at 120/74 which is normal. You can't tell me that it's not changing my life for the better.

I believe the Wii Fit has it's place with kids too. My 5 year old grandson likes to come stay with me and he loves Wii Fit. He usually stays with me for 4 or 5 days at a time and breaks for a couple then is right back. I have to make him stop the aerobic exercises for fear he will lose too much weight as he is already thin. He needs to gain about 2 lbs. I stear him toward the strength exercises and yoga to help him gain strenth and muscle tone and he does them without complaint.

My other daughter's kids are 16, 13and 10 and they all love the Wii Fit as well, so much so that my daughter had to get one herself to keep them from spending too much time at my place. They would come over every day to get their exercise. My daughter and her three kids are all overweight. A couple of them just slightly and have all seen weight reductions.

I am also reading articles where hospitals especially rehab facilities and nursing homes are using the Wii Fit to either help with rehab or get their elderly patients moving.

I believe that Wii Fit has a place right along with Gamercize, I had never heard of Gamercize before seeing this blog, and need more than just cardiovascular fitness anyway. Wii Fit is a good addition or supplement to exercise. Any continued exercise is good and Wii Fit works, at least for my sister, my daughter, her 3 kids and me. I am not including the 5 year old as we are trying to get him to gain weight. I believe we have between us lost about 25 lbs in a month.

I am optimistic that the Wii Fit with help me obtain my goals as well as help others obtain theirs.

gamercize @ said...

Hi Charlene

Thank you for your wonderful success story. News like this is always welcome and a very positive sign for exergaming in general. It is nice to see some real life success, as apposed to success in sales!

My research is not scientific, but I don’t think it is flawed. Many people on their blogs committed to 30 day Wii Fit diaries, but I have yet to find one blogger that sustained use of Wii Fit for that time, indeed most had given up before the end of a week.

Scientific research to me is much more questionable in value, considering the cost of the research is met by commercial organisations. Last year Nintendo paid for research at a Liverpool University, the results made headlines and sold many units – however a multitude of letters to the BMJ criticised the research both in method and findings.

This is the reason I looked towards real people around the world who were not being paid for their views – I think people are more important than PR.

I agree Gamercize and Wii Fit are not in competition – we add exercise for existing video gamers and Wii Fit brings new people into video games for exercise. This being said, how Wii Fit is perceived has a massive bearing on public opinion of video game exercise, so I am very pleased to read your experiences and that of your family.

All the best and thank you for sharing your brilliant story!