The WiiFit

Okay, what the hell? How is it that my body is in PAIN after only three days with the Wii Fit?

Let me explain. I had taken up martial arts again recently. There was a club near where I work and my breaks were long enough to accommodate it. I had noticed my weight catching up with me and figured it would be a good way to get exercise. And it was, aside from the injuries I suffered during those three months. I stopped partly because of the injuries, partly because I didn’t enjoy ju-jitsu as much as karate, but mostly because I had been transferred to another store, without a gym in sight, and my break time was cut in half.

Solution? The Wii Fit!

Well, I find it highly unlikely that the Wii balance board will ever have a martial arts trainer available for it, but my intention behind getting it was more of a reliable health tracker. Every bathroom scale I ever had sucked, and I could never be bothered to mark my progress (or lack thereof) anyway. I wasn’t sure how useful of an exercise tool it would be, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Well, I was wrong about the hurting part.

Okay, let me break down what the WiiFit does. Actually WiiFit is the program, the device itself is called the Wii Balance Board. I suspect nobody will really ever call it that. Anyway, the story goes that Nintendo worked with a maker of electronic scales at first, but then decided to go it on their own. Rather than just one weight sensor, there are four, which allow the device to determine where and how you are standing. This is what makes it more than just a pressure sensor and scale – once it knows how you stand it can tell if you’re leaning and how much.

There are four kinds of exercises – yoga, strength, aerobics and balance. The balance section to me barely counts as any kind of exercise, and is much more of a game than the others. But since one of the goals of WiiFit is improving posture, balance is an important part of it. And Gillian will certainly find it useful in that sense. Balance games are stuff like skiing and snowboarding, a marble tilt game where your body tilts the board, that sort of thing.

Aerobics is similar to Balance in that both use your Miis (Wii avatars) to play the games with, and both use colorful fun to play games. Aerobics deals with getting you moving, though. Step aerobics, jogging, and aerobic boxing (stepping, punching, ducking and weaving in time) are the kind of games you’ll find here. Jogging is the one game that doesn’t use the WiiFit.. er I mean balance board at all. It just uses the Wii remote. It’s also the only game I’ve come across so far that allows you to do two-player. This is one fault of the WiiFit in that there should be more activities that can be done multi player. But of course this would require more balance boards as well, and each board takes up a slot just like the Wii remotes do. Still, having a partner on a second board would be a good motivator.

Strength and Yoga have you train with your own “personal trainer” who demonstrates each move and does it with you. You can choose a male or female instructor to work with. There isn’t much to describe here, other than the Yoga is all about stretching and balance and strength is all about reps of various workouts.

You only start out with a few games/exercises in each of the four categories, and unlock more the longer you play. Most are unlocked through time played, while some are unlocked by reaching certain conditions within a game to unlock an advanced version. You also unlock more reps in the Strength section this way (which is actually a pretty good way to keep noobs from overdoing it, but might annoy someone who is already in good shape).

Now, once you start a workout for the day the first thing you generally do is go for a body test, where your weight is taken and center of gravity determined. Unfortunately weight in the UK version is given in Stones (14 pounds to the stone, darn annoying to convert) and kilograms (which I never followed anyway). Because you gave the WiiFit your height when registering your Mii profile, it can also give your Body Mass Index. Mine is… higher… than I thought.

Then a couple of short tests are given and you’re presented with your WiiFit Age. I find this section to be pretty useless, personally. It’s based far too much on the results of a balance test which you are bound to improve at over time regardless of your actual improvement in health. For example, the first day I did it my WiiFit Age was 39 (where I didn’t finish a balance test in time) and on the third it was 30 (when I did finish the same test)

While the WiiFit Age might be useless the rest is not. You mark on the calendar every time you run the body test, and can check your progress over time, weight loss, BMI, how much time you’ve spent on various types of exercises. The fact it’s consistent and automatic at the very least makes it more useful than guessing what a bathroom scale says and writing it down. I’m wearing the same outfit for my workouts and doing them at the same time in the morning to increase the consistency.

And the weird thing is after only three days of playing I’m already in pain. The yoga is stretching muscles I never thought needed stretching, and somehow my outer thigh got over-extended. Of course all the walking around Gill and I did in Amsterdam and the ten tons of shopping I carried back a couple days ago by myself hasn’t helped, but still, so far the Wii seems to be giving me value for money in the workout department.

Time will tell if it does me any good.