Does a Wii workout count as an actual workout?

Can a video game (like the Wii Fit or XBox Kinect) really give you a good workout — like one comparable to a more traditional fitness routine?

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    Can a video console, like the Wii or a Xbox 360 with Kinect, really get you fit? Yes, it can — if it’s able to encourage you to actually get your groove on.

    Of course, you can also get some good exercise by jumping up and down and running in circles in your living room. The benefit of Wii Fit (and Kinect) is that it offers guidance, inspiration and fun– and can make a workout a lot more interesting than hopping around aimlessly.

    It really can work

    Anecdotally, there are lots of major media outlets from around the world that have supported the Wii’s ability to help you lose weight and get a good workout. Here are five such stories:

    Wii, the celebs

    Actress Alison Sweeney, also host of The Biggest Loser, gives the Wii props for helping her get back in shape after pregnancy. “It’s just a good example of how you can really get it done at home. You don’t need to have a big fancy gym membership.

    Other celebrities who have come out in praise of the Wii Fit include Ali Landry, Antonio Sabato Jr, Nancy O’Dell and Holly Robinson Peete. (Check them out in this video.)

    The research

    According to a study presented in 2009 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, about one-third of the Wii Sports and Wii Fit‘s virtual physical activities require an energy expenditure of 3.0 METs or above, considered moderate-intensity exercise.

    “The range of energy expenditure in these active games is sufficient to prevent or to improve obesity and lifestyle-related disease, from heart disease and diabetes to metabolic diseases,” said the lead author. Granted, the study was funded by Nintendo, but it’s not the only research supporting the gaming console’s fitness value.

    For instance, middle school-aged children who participated in interactive digital gaming activities that feature player movement (“exergaming”) — such as dancing or boxing — increased their energy expenditure to a level of moderate or vigorous intensity, according to a report from the July 2011 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

    “Active video games have the potential to increase energy expenditure during otherwise sedentary video gaming and may provide a viable adjunct to more traditional exercise,” wrote the authors. “The potential of these games to promote fitness and extended periods of moderate to vigorous activity in normal and overweight youth has not been evaluated.”

    The Wii is also being tested at helping with everything from gestational diabetes to strokesvisual skills to depression.

    The bottom line

    As you know, what you get out of any exercise plan — whether we’re talking kickboxing or zumba or jogging — depends on how much you put into it.

    Our advice is to try out a bunch of Wii and Wii Fit games (starting with the ones that come with the system) and see what motivates you. Then, to mix things up, there are lots and lots of different Wii Fit games that you can play. Your goal is to find something that you will enjoy doing — which is the basis for any beneficial, ongoing fitness routine.

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