Review: Nintendo Wii Fit
At a Glance
Nintendo's $90 Wii Fit--a home workout program disguised as a video game--hit retailers across the country two days after its May 19 soft launch at the New York City Nintendo World Store, where a limited supply reportedly sold out in just a few hours. After (literally) bending to the will of my new virtual trainer overlords, I can understand why Wii Fit is already a hit in Japan, Europe, and Australia.
Wii Fit lets users choose from 48 activities spread across four main categories: yoga poses, strength training, aerobic exercise, and balance games. To perform such calisthenics, you stand--or in some cases lie--on the special wireless Wii Balance Board peripheral that comes with the game. The sturdy Balance Board, which resembles a double-width bathroom scale, supports weights of up to 330 pounds or so. Powered by four AA batteries, it's rated for around 60 hours of use. Four pressure sensors inside the board determine where your feet are, monitor your center of gravity, and check your weight. It will also function as an optional controller for upcoming Wii games such as Skate It (from Electronic Arts/Black Box) and All-Star Cheer Squad (from THQ).
Sweatbands snapped tight and short shorts riding high, I found that I had to do a few data crunches first, building my Wii Fit profile by entering my height, weight, gender, and birthday. A basic body test then measured my balance before the software presented me with a pretty accurate Body Mass Index (BMI) score, my weight in pounds, my "Wii Fit Age" (more a measurement of my game skills than of my actual fitness level), and the option to password-protect my profile (self-conscious teenagers take note).
You can weigh in again anytime you want, set goals to lower or increase your BMI, and arrange for the game's calendar to chart your progress toward fitness. Note that BMI is not a measure of body fat and that BMI measurements for children often are inaccurate. The official word from Nintendo: "Wii Fit is still capable of measuring the BMI for people aged between 2 and 20, but the resulting figures may not be entirely accurate for younger age groups due to varying levels of development." Essentially, you should use a good measure of common sense in interpreting Wii Fit's statistics, and you should not treat the device's conclusions as a substitute for the advice of health care professionals.
Young and old alike may find themselves mimicking the adorable Wii Fit helium voice-over, at least until the novelty wears off
Roughly 10 minutes after stepping onto the Wii Balance Board, I had completed a profile, received motivational advice on posture and daily exercise, and was ready to tackle my first Wii Push Up or Downward-Facing Dog yoga pose.
The Good and the Bad
Wii Fit includes 15 activities each for yoga and strength training--from a single-leg extension to a parallel stretch. The aerobics and balance drills are much more fun, however, and there are 9 activities of each of those two types to choose from. Among my favorites were quickly shifting balance for Soccer Heading, Ski Slalom, and Table Tilt; and working on my cardio with aerobic challenges like virtual Hula Hooping (you'll be gyrating like Elvis in no time), Rhythm Boxing, and Jogging (the latter two use the Wii remote to sense movement). Many activities include on-screen feedback regarding how shaky you are or where your center of gravity should be. Virtual trainers (whom you can stand behind or in front of, as you prefer) talk you through the movements and explain how you can improve your performance.
As you spend time exercising, you earn Fit Credits that unlock the game's activities one by one. Each workout takes roughly 1 to 5 minutes and you tend to unlock tougher drills or higher repetition counts every 5 to 10 minutes. Unfortunately, each Wii Fit player must unlock each workout solo. I was surprised and frustrated at the lack of a two-player vs. mode (two-player jogging aside) and at not being able to create a custom workout (which means that there's no avoiding menu hopping and completing activities back-to-back).
Clearly Wii Fit isn't perfect as either a game or as a replacement for a gym membership. But if you're looking to ease back into exercise, seeking ways to break up your current routine--or want a fun, family-friendly option for days when it's too hot or cold outside--Wii Fit is definitely worth your while. Just remember to give yourself lots of leg room and to have realistic expectations.