I Play Wii Sports, That’s Exercise Right?

I don't know if it's "exercise," but let's not be so quick to dismiss Wii Sports as an option for fitness.

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I read an interesting research paper the other day that addressed this very topic along with reviewing others like it. Coming from a world where maximal efforts and pain are my friends, I struggled with the notion that the answer to this question could be yes, so I was obviously interested to hear what they had to say. It was attention-grabbing at the very least and thought-provoking. As I briefly mentioned above if you also come from a world of hurt and love it as much as I do, then you will need to step out of it to gain a better perspective.

Ok so the researchers took 22 university students that considered themselves ‘recreationally active’. Using a health questionnaire they were then put into one of two groups, the low intensity group (LIE) or high intensity group (HIE) this basically distinguished if the subject performed any low or high intensity exercise within their week to week routine.

The subjects performed 3 exercise sessions the first was performed at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike and stepper, while the final two sessions they played Wii sport Boxing, Tennis, Step Aerobics, and Cycling. The entire time they were hooked up to a Polar Heart rate monitor to measure cardiac output. Now it’s fair to say the HIE group didn’t get a great deal out of the Wii games from a cardiovascular perspective. However the LIE group had favourable results with both Wii Boxing and Wii Tennis, and although the stationary bike and stepper came on top, these two games weren’t far behind. Not bad considering the games were played on the easiest level!

However the plot thickens when we start talking enjoyment levels and adherence rates.  Each subject was asked to fill out a questionnaire after each session rating their enjoyment, enthusiasm, satisfaction etc.

Predictably, the Wii games topped the chart streaks ahead of the formal exercise with Wii Tennis leading, closely followed by Wii Boxing. Copious amounts of studies have shown that when enjoyment levels and satisfaction levels are high, subjects are 30-40% more likely to adhere to an activity. So this obviously begs the question, if we have a client that is a serial offender for not following their 30-40min of movement a day, would active gaming act as an appropriate back stop?

It pains me to say that it actually has merit. Don’t get me wrong it would have to be a last resort, however the key again comes back to adherence and in our world consistency is key. If the Wii means that individuals would actively move 4-6 times a week for 30-40min when they previously wouldn’t then, as I said, it has merit. At the very least a combination of formal training and Wii could act as a good way to break up the formalities of exercising while the client is still finding their feet in what is initially a daunting and fearful world known as regular exercising.

What do you think?