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Does Wii Fit work?

Reports have already surfaced about Wii Fit calling a young girl fat and the National Obesity Forum calling for children to stay away from Nintendo’s questionably heath-minded exercise tool. No matter - we get that Wii Fit’s not there to replace actual fitness and that despite the curious inclusion of the Body Mass Index (calculating a percentage based on height and weight, thus giving a readout of how “healthy” you are) we know Wii Fit’s primary goal is to promote exercise and health.

Yet, we still wonder how accurate a robotic weight scale could be. And because we love asserting our human brain dominance over a cold calculating machine, we nabbed Sally Coucouvanis, a certified yoga instructor for children with special needs to help us assess whether Nintendo’s Wii game was true to the yogi lifestyle.

Sally chooses her Mii and steps on the Balance Board for the initial weigh in Based on her height and age, her BMI calculates to 23.73 or Normal. After some initial balance tests, the game tells Sally her Wii Fit age is 60 years old.

GamesRadar: Do you think these beginning calculations are anything to take seriously for yoga? How about for children?
Sally: Yoga is for everybody - you do not have to be “fit” to do it. Although now, it is very popular to have a faster, more flowing yoga at gyms. And some people do it now to lose weight, but that is not the intention. I think the weigh in and BMI might be good for some, but others might get discouraged. I did like knowing I was placed in the “healthy” category.

It’s not important at all for kids - a kid is supposed to be more free flow, like run around, etc. I don’t think they’d even be able to stand on that [Balance Board] the whole time, but age could make a difference.

GR: The game just said your Wii Fit age is 60, which is clearly off from your actual age. It suggests you’re weaker than you actually are. Any truth in that?
Sally: It seemed “right on” for me, but that wouldn’t be good. I do feel it didn’t give accuracy for being a disciplined yogi [person who practices yoga] versus a person who never did it.

GR: How does the balance board feel?
Sally: A bit weird. In Yoga, you’re grounded on a mat barefoot – close to the Earth and not on a thing you stand on. If you were new to it, then it might not seem so weird.

Sally stands still while the Board calibrates her center of balance.

GR: Wii Fit says your center of balance is towards the back right with more weight on your heels. Seems like the game is calling out your posture. What’s up with that?
Sally: I thought my posture was fine. I think it’s interesting the game doesn’t think I do. When I lean forward to correct it, it feels like I’m tipping over.

4 comments

  • gishstar - October 5, 2011 7:09 a.m.

    I realize this article is a little old. Thanks for sharing this information. My job has recently become more stressful and I was thinking of using my Wii Fit for Yoga to calm and center myself. I figured there was going to be some differences between real yoga and Wii Yoga, I just didn't know how beneficial it was going to be relaxing-wise. I think the Yoga instructor is correct in saying that when you learn yoga, it's an experience that a computer just can't measure. However, one thing I will share about is the Wii Fit Age. While it's encouraging or discouraging to see the age on screen, the board is just a computer taking measurements. Think of it like a really expensive leveler. All the board is measuring is your ability to correctly perform the tasks, in the way it wants you to perform the tasks. It measures your speed, and you body and eye coordination (which can dwindle as you get older), and your balance (which can also decline with age). I'm not a doctor, but I think we all agree that as our Grandparents aged, their physical and mental agility doesn't exactly improve over time. Unless they're committed to keeping their minds and bodies agile. If you're unfamiliar with video games, and the concept of just "giving the board what it wants" your Wii age will be higher than your actual age. However, if you practice the tests it gives you, you can decrease your Wii age by just simply knowing the concept of the various balance games it gives you. The Wii Fit cycles through a few different balance games to calculate your Wii Fit age. So if you're patient enough to listen to all the instructions for the balance tests over and over, you can lower your age by a lot.
  • MSCR - September 11, 2008 3:44 p.m.

    Well its a good thing she's just a yoga instructor and not an actual health professional otherwise her opinions might actually have influence on something. Also, doesn't it say right there that the game is designed for over 16 yrs (something like that)? Course you showed up as a fatty little girl, you're not supposed to play it. Never mind the fact that BMI is junk and based on dubious and outdated scientific data.
  • Sizzler - October 17, 2008 3:38 p.m.

    Burn. This was interesting.
  • GamesRadarShanePatterson - October 10, 2008 4:24 a.m.

    Because yoga's included in the game, we figured who better to judge the yoga then an actual instructor? Yoga instructors aren't health professionals either smart guy. You think the woman teaching your mom at 24 Hour Fitness has a medical doctorate? Also, Wii Fit is for all ages. Never mind the BMI - if it's made for all ages, it's made for all ages. Get your facts straight.

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