Once home fitness was all about aerobics videos and then yoga DVDs; now it's all about Wii a new wave of computer games that require users to get off the couch and "play" sports. But is it really healthy?
What it is: "Wii" is the newest gaming console produced by Nintendo. The Wii controller is wireless, and can detect movement in three dimensions to allow users to "swing" at baseballs and "box" opponents. Another apparatus, the Wii Balance Board (a platform resembling bathroom scales) can be synched to the console so users can perform activities such as skiing and hula-hooping.
How it works: Wii Sports requires users to swing the controller as if they were hitting a tennis ball or pitching a baseball. Other "sports" include bowling, golf and boxing. Unsurprisingly, it is possible to lose weight while playing (especially boxing). Gamers from all over the world have posted blogs with their kilojoule losses highlighted, and "training" programs can be downloaded online.
Wii Fit delivers a well-rounded health program. Standing on the Wii Balance Board, first-time users are lectured on good health and posture, and, after selecting their height and being weighed by the board, their BMI is calculated. After performing a few preliminary balancing exercises, the user is told their "Wii age", and offered the option of choosing one of a number of fitness goals (for example, losing two kilograms over four weeks).
The user is then guided through another series of exercises by an on-screen "personal trainer", after which you're free to participate in other activities, including balance games (tightrope walking), aerobic exercises (hula-hooping), yoga, and muscle workouts. As you compete, further activities are "unlocked" (like a secret level would be revealed if you were playing a regular game).
Difficulty: While Wii Sports requires wild arm swinging (contracting "Wii elbow" is a real possibility), technique is emphasised in Wii Fit. The wireless technology is extremely accurate, requiring much practise to perfect moves.
Target market: Wii Sports appeals to energetic users young men and women, in particular. Wii Fit, on the other hand, appeals to a broader market.
The catch: Any personal trainer worth their salt will say there's no substitute for regular exercise, and at minimum, three 30-minute sessions each week are recommended. But Wii Fit is undoubtedly an ally in the battle against the bulge. In fact, the NSW Government teamed with Nintendo Australia to install Wii Sports and Wii Fit in classrooms across the state.
The verdict: Both games will appeal to anyone's competitive streak. Fuming to be told I had "bad balance" after my first attempt at skiing, I kept at it until I'd broken a sweat and advanced to at least two stars out of four. I've never been a gaming fan, but I found the Wii fitness games strangely addictive not to mention exhausting. Nothing beats the great outdoors, but on a rainy Sunday afternoon, playing tennis in my lounge room was the next best thing.
Cost: Nintendo Wii console: $399.95 (includes Wii Sports); Nintendo Wii Fit: $149.95 (includes Wii Balance Board).
More info: www.nintendo.com.au.