Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Move Over Richard Simmons & Jane Fonda....Here Comes Wii Fit!

Have you ever heard the phrase "I'll start working out tomorrow?" Whether these five words have been uttered from your own mouth, or that of a friend or family member, chances are you've heard them at least once or twice. And chances are just as likely that the person never followed through because he was too busy, too tired, too lazy, not motivated...the list of excuses could go on forever. Enter Wii Fit, a fun, fitness game that lets you exercise without ever leaving the home, or living room.

The game can be likened to a workout DVD, except the on-screen trainer isn't just a passive participant: he/she can monitor what you're doing and the progress you're making by measuring data like body mass index, weight, and even the amount of pressure you're placing onto one side of your body. This is accomplished through a battery-operated Balance Board that syncs with the Wii console and game, and can sense when you make contact with it.

I spent the night with Wii Fit, and had loads of fun while enjoying every activity in four categories: aerobics, yoga, and strength and balance training. First, I was put through a series of tests to determine my "Wii Fit age", and asked my real age and height. The game also provided my weight and body mass index, then asked me to set a goal: how many pounds do I want to lose and by when? I selected five pounds in two weeks, but was warned that this might be pushing it, so I changed it to just three. If you're shy and don't want others in the home to know your stats, you can easily protect them with a four-digit password.

A male and female trainer is available: I selected the male, and although he was extremely encouraging and provided some great tips as I tried out each exercise, it was eerily creepy that his mouth did not move when he spoke! In some strange way, however, this also adds to the charm of the game itself, which is full of cutesy screen scenes and audio prompts, as is characteristic with most Wii games.

If you think you can slack off with this game, think again. The trainer observes your every move. If you stop he'll ask "hey, are you still there?" I gave up my failed attempts at push-ups and the side plank, and he pointedly declared at the end of the session that he knew I took a break, but told me not to worry because things would get easier. Gee, thanks for making me feel guilty!

As you go through each activity, points accumulate within a Wii Bank, and are automatically cashed in to unlock new, more advanced activities. In my span of about an hour-and-a-half of game play, I had already unlocked three new fitness moves in areas like yoga and strength training. What I also loved was that the game sensed when I had been playing for an hour and prompted me to take a break and hydrate myself with some water.

In addition to the standard exercise moves, there are also some fun games, like skiing (as you can see in action via our video with Olympic Freestyle Mogul Skiier Kristi Richards); tight rope walking (for balance training), hula hooping (this one's loads of fun), and even head-butting soccer balls that are thrown at you!

In addition to the fun nature of each activity, I also appreciate the attention to detail in the game. Keep an eye out for your friends in any activity: they'll be doing things like throwing hula hoops and soccer balls at you, doing step activities in a class, and even running alongside you in a race. During the quick run activity (you stand behind the Balance Board and simply jog in place), you'll head out on a dirt road, with grass, trees, and a nice summer scene surrounding you. What's even neater is the distinct "crunch, crunch" sound of your feet hitting the pavement as you jog. You couldn't simulate this experience better indoors, even with equipment like a treadmill or elliptical machine.

In my eyes, Wii Fit, which became available in Canada today for $89.95, only scratches the surface of the potential for fitness video games. I'd like to be able to cash in my points to purchase new workout gear for my Mii character, or perhaps even to upgrade to a more advanced trainer or newer gym facility. How about being able to select custom music for my workouts? I see a whole new opportunity for Wii-branded fitness accessories, like freeweights and perhaps even special sensored shoes that one can wear and use within a room to take the activities one step further. The possibilities are endless, but the starting point is pretty darned good in my eyes. If, like me, you've said over and over that you want to tone and get fit, but simply never got around to doing it, Wii Fit is a great motivator. I can only hope that the novelty doesn't wear off . So far, I'm headed toward my two-week goal, and determined to accomplish it. Stay tuned! And for more information, visit

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