A week with Wii Fit

I feel like I should talk about the results of having Wii Fit for a week. What complicates it is that I'm having back problems, and I don't think it's due to Wii Fit (in fact I think it's helping), but I can't rule it out.

Here's my basic capsule summation of the Wii Fit: I think it is fun and I think it's a great addition to an existing fitness regimen. If you aren't exercising I think trying to get a real workout out of the Wii Fit is just going to be frustrating.

In both my case and Karin's we already have exercises that we're doing, so the Wii Fit is mainly for tracking and for a little variety in exercises. There's also the yoga portion, which impresses me. I've never done any yoga study, although there's some overlap with tai chi in terms of the breathing exercises. I think the balance board really helps with yoga because the virtual trainer can tell when you're doing something wrong balance-wise. Eyetoy:Kinetic was much less effective, since it was trying to see you, as opposed to measuring weight shifts.

I was (well I still am) tracking my weight manually and updating a spreadsheet every month, but the Wii can give you daily feedback. That's sort of a double-edged sword and frankly I think they could have done better with some of the commentary. The truth is that a shift of a pound or so in a day may just be random fluctuations. They mention that but it will still express disapproval over a half pound gain, which could easily be just a few extra glasses of water over the last day. It's also a bit odd because it asks if you are wearing "light" or "heavy" clothing and it considers "light" clothing as 2 pounds. Well my sneakers are 2.5 pounds by themselves, so I have to use the "heavy" option, even if I'm wearing T-shirt and shorts. It does have a custom option as well, but that seems like a slight hassle to weigh everything. It also doesn't track completely accurately versus my digital scale. It does most days but I've had one day where the Wii said I lost weight and the scale said I gained. Maybe my T-shirt that day was extra light, I dunno. It also uses Body Mass Index (BMI) which I gather can be somewhat inaccurate. According to it I should be trying to lose almost half of my body weight, which can't be that healthy. I'm overweight sure, but I don't know if a doctor would sign off on me losing over 100 pounds. I suppose I could go ask one, but who wants to do that?

The biggest problem with Wii Fit is that there's no real exercise program. If you do some exercises it will suggest they pair well with another exercise, but they don't even tell you where to find that other exercise (So far I've only seen like three of those and they were always pairing a yoga exercise with a "strength exercise". I suspect that's the case because the other categories are aerobic and the balance games.) There's certainly nothing you can do that amounts to "give me a half hour workout". For instance I'd like to gently stretch this back muscle that's giving me grief, but I just have to pick and choose exercises based on overall muscle groups, or based on prior experience. The aerobic exercises seem particularly fruitless because you only get a couple of minutes of exercise and then you're back to the menu to pick something else. Getting an actual elevated heart rate for a significant period of time would either be really difficult or a real danger sign of poor physical condition.

The balance games are fun, but there's an odd neither fish-nor-fowl problem here as well. You can't say "OK we're going to have three people take turns on the Slalom and compare the scores". You have to just keep hitting retry and comparing the scores yourself. It tracks high scores for Karin and I, but that doesn't work if we were wanting to play at the same time.

It does seem spot on in balance analysis. I was pretty close to centered left-to-right when I starting using it, but I really stood with my weight back on my heels. At first I thought I was standing on the board wrong, but over the last few days I've realized it's correct and that I'm a little more comfortable if I consciously shift forward more. I'm not convinced there's a real health benefit from that, but it's certainly interesting to know.

The final analysis is this: I haven't really been losing any weight this year, in fact I went up a little bit (around 2 pounds) over the holidays and I've held pretty firmly at that mark for about 8 months now. The Wii Fit sees a slight downward trend over the last week and my manual chart seems to agree. I think adding half an hour or so of Wii Fit work has A ) gotten to some muscle groups that I wasn't exercising, and B ) been the final kick to my metabolism that may actually trigger more weight loss. At least I hope so :-)

As a peripheral the Balance Board is certainly neat. I'm not sure how many really good games will actually use it. While the Fit is selling out in the US, I'm not sure how many units that really amounts to. I sort of doubt it's really enough to really lure 3rd party developers to do really good work for the board. I'm know there's been at least one other game that uses it (We Ski) and there are a couple coming up that do. But I suspect it's going to be a lot of half-assed "you can play like this if you want to" implementations where some programmer spent a week on it right before alpha.

I guess at the end of the day I'd love to see a Mario game that used the board, but I'm not sure if that will happen.