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Wii Can't Replace Actual Exercise 148

Next Generation notes the results of a study into the health benefits of playing the Nintendo Wii. According to the University of Liverpool research, Wii Tennis can't compare with the real thing. "The result showed that the youths burned 60 calories (in nutrition terms) more an hour playing Wii, a 2% increase in the amount of energy burned versus the Xbox 360 players. The study is quoted as saying that 'these increases were of insufficient intensity to contribute towards recommendations for children's daily exercise,' and that active gaming using the Wii is no replacement for actual sports."
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Wii Can't Replace Actual Exercise

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  • Unclear article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChowRiit ( 939581 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:03PM (#21822040)
    The article makes no mention of what games they used on the Wii to test this. My experience is that some games are far more active than others - playing Wario Ware normally leaves me quite worn out after a while, but playing Super Mario Galaxy requires almost no movement. Without knowing what they used for the experiment, its results are meaningless...
  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:06PM (#21822076) Journal
    I know I can't bowl a perfect game in real life, but come damn close in Wii Sports. Nothing is the same as getting up and getting moving but even the article points out:

    The study did concede that while the actual calorie-burning benefits of the Wii were trivial, the activity that the Wii inspires could aid in weight management...
    Sadly that's what these kids need; Motivation! If playing Wii Sports gets them interested in playing real tennis then yeah, it's a good thing. Not a replacement, I won't stop going to the gym because I got a Wii or play DDR but it's a step in the right direction to get people moving again.
  • by manekineko2 ( 1052430 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:10PM (#21822130)
    Without a doubt, the results of this study depend heavily on the methodology of how they had players play. This study got a total of eleven individuals in order to reach this conclusion.

    There are two ways to play the Wii, especially Wii sports: You can really get into it, swinging yours arms and making big motions and make it exercise (while having more fun in my opinion).
    Or you can play it like a video game, and just twitch the controller around. Of course, as Tycho and Gabe put it so eloquently, that makes you a toolbox: []

    In reaching the conclusion that Wii is only a 2% increase in calorie burning over 360 games, I'm sure the kids were only moving their wrists. Then, the difference breaks down to 360 = twitching thumbs, Wii = twitching wrists. I could believe that twitching wrists instead of just thumbs is a 2% increase in calories burnt over the 360.

    I know that when playing Wii boxing and making real punching motions, my arms get physically tired and I can work up a sweat after long enough. I am sure if someone wanted to, they could run another study and grab another headline by stating something like Wii Burns As Many Calories as Real Workout.

  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:11PM (#21822136)
    We need to have weighted Wii-motes to help go that extra distance. It would be like the 2 pound power-walking weights.
  • by darkrowan ( 976992 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:16PM (#21822174) Homepage
    ... DDR!
    Nothing... NOTHING beats a DDR workout. Wanna really test something against a sport/gym workout? 30 mins of DDR (actual play time) vs 30min Cardio workout. I'd be curious how close the ratio comes out to 1 on that.

    ~my $.02
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:24PM (#21822228)
    This is a hoax. The original research "appears" at []

    It is worth noting that BMJ regularly provides joke studies on Christmas.

    Further explanation from the Language Log: []
  • by Sciros ( 986030 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @01:49PM (#21822466) Journal
    A 2% increase over playing the 360 is better than nothing? Yeah the way having 2 pennies in your pocket is better than being flat broke. A far cry from it? Please.

    Using the Wii to get exercise is one thing. It requires playing particular games in a particular fashion; not something I wager the test subjects did in this study. But playing it in such a fashion that you burn 2% more calories than playing the 360 is *not* exercise. You can probably do better if you play any game while tapping your feet to the in-game music. To defend the Wii in this case and say that 2% is better than 0% is just silly.
  • by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @02:04PM (#21822592)
    A 2% increase over playing the 360 is better than nothing? Yeah the way having 2 pennies in your pocket is better than being flat broke. A far cry from it? Please.

    Using the Wii to get exercise is one thing. It requires playing particular games in a particular fashion; not something I wager the test subjects did in this study. But playing it in such a fashion that you burn 2% more calories than playing the 360 is *not* exercise. You can probably do better if you play any game while tapping your feet to the in-game music. To defend the Wii in this case and say that 2% is better than 0% is just silly.

    I don't think anyone ever said that the Wii is suppose to replace any type of exercise regimen. The whole point though, is that if it gets kids off the couch and moving around, that's better than sitting on the couch. I don't think any of the Nintendo people ever advertised 'Hey you don't have to do your normal exercise routine, just buy a Wii'. Getting up and moving around burns more calories than sitting, it's a fact. Is it enough to burn all your necessary "workout" calories? No of course not.

    There is another factor involved that most people don't think about, and that is the stretching part of it. I can't count the number of times I've had sore muscles in the morning, basically from lack of use for the last 6-8 hours. If I have a particularly busy day at work, I can spend close to 12 hours sitting down (with hopefully a few breaks in between) and my muscles hurt then too. Getting kids to get up and move around helps stretch their muscles, not to mention just the simple part of playing a game that requires more movement of your body than just your hands stimulates more of the mind. Does it replace thinking? No of course not, but it's "better than nothing".

    People (probably) don't buy a Wii for exercise, they buy it because it's fun for them. If they get 2% more exercise in a day (which IS better than nothing... only Sith deal in absolutes!) then that's 2% less they have to get the rest of the day to meet whatever quota you've made up for them.

    Just because some study says that playing a Wii doesn't replace exercise doesn't mean that Nintendo was actually saying that it did. Sounds like someone wanted something original to write a thesis about.
  • by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @02:46PM (#21822958) Journal
    I think thats the key. DDR (or the Wii, or whatever) can serve as the kick in the butt to get things going (even if just mentally). Once motivation is there, more traditional methods are probably more effective.
  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @03:40PM (#21823478)
    I am an overweight over 40 man who has played DDR for many years, often in heavy mode, thanks to competition with my 20 year old daughter who always kicks my ass at it. It seems to be an excellent source of cardio excercise. But as a calorie burner, not so much. Most of the time your arms are not really used. Once I got good at it, the jumping tended to be mostly from my calves, not any of the larger muscle groups. I tend to be on my toes during the game, not really doing deep knee bends.

    My daughter and I noticed that when we play, our upper bodies almost remain motionless, only moving our shoulders as we shift positions.

    For a couple of years, I would play at least 30-45 minutes 3 or 4 times a week but sometimes every day depending on my work schedule. I found that my heart rate and breathing benefited from DDR, and my blood pressure dropped. I remained the same weight for the most part over that period. It wasn't until I reduced my DDR time and added in regular calisthenics that I began to reduce my weight.

    But my calves got hard as a rock ....

    I'm sure my daughter will get the WII version. It should be interesting to see if the addition of arm movements adds any significant exertion. I used to juggle quite a bit, and discovered that holding your arms out in front of you and moving them up and down was not trivial. I remember speaking to a physical therapist who suggested it was an excellent therapy for carpel tunnel rather than simple stretching because it increases the blood flow.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @03:41PM (#21823486)
    Wow, you're pretty out of touch with the way most instructors teach. Are you still stuck in the way one learned piano in the 50s? Sure there are many musicians out there that are 'jukeboxes' and can duplicate any riffs/songs, but if you asked them to play something in Gm, they'd look at you like you'd just asked them to play an accordion. Musicians understand what they are playing, jukeboxes are no different than GuitarHero players. They memorize positions/fingerings and get the desired sound.

    On the very first lesson, we always ask the student one easy question, "Name me ONE song that you'd like to play, or one band that you like their music." We begin there. Why? Because if you start off with a 14yr old with "Mary had a little lamb", they'll be bored in 10seconds. Theory IS important, but getting them past all the plateaus is just as important.

    However, I would say that many times when I ask a student "What do you like to listen to..?" I get the standard "I dunno... anything....". And this is from some kid who's got a $1500 guitar for his first lesson.

    Why are you good at Guitar Hero? Because you're doing the same thing 10,000,000 times, and it tells you you're doing it wrong. Btw, any good musician knows that one wrong note in the presence of a full band isn't going to be noticed.
  • by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @04:37PM (#21824020)
    You're absolutely correct. And the article is correct, due to the fact that their small 2% increase was because they were basically playing the Wii like you'd play any video game on any console. The only difference was, instead of pressing a button they flick their wrist. Of course you're not going to get much additional exercise from that. But if you play the Wii like it was *meant* to be played, you're going to get a whole hell of a lot more than a 2% increase. Probably closer to a 20,000% increase. It's all in how you use it. And I for one think using a Wii to exercise is a hell of a lot more fun and interesting than a treadmill.

    Oh yeah, the Wii is more useful for exercise than TFA is for any purpose. That's all.

  • Wii boxing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2007 @05:31PM (#21824470) Homepage Journal
    You don't need much resistance to do aerobic exercise if you are using parts of your body other than your legs.

    You can drive your heart rate well into the anaerobic range just by keeping your hands in constant motion. If you haven't tried something like shadow boxing, you'd be surprised. I think that the human body has evolved for efficient bipedal locomotion; it is extremely inefficient at keeping the arms in motion. Three minutes of continuous shadow boxing takes far more energy than jogging the same amount of time. If you don't believe me, try it; see if you can shadow box for three minutes, and throw during that time 120 minutes, a mere 1.5 seconds/punch.

    Check out this video [] of a boxer hitting the focus mitts. Notice that his punching rate averaged over each 30 second period goes up and down -- from about 1 1/3 down to about 3/4 punch per second. He's throwing blindingly fast combinations, but he has to rest and the rest period between combinations goes up and down. If you took 100 people off the street, I'd bet maybe one or two could keep up this level of activity for three minutes without coming close fainting. Of course the bulk of the energy being provided is from the creatine phosphate pathway and glycolysis, but believe me you go into oxygen debt doing this. I've seen strong men reduced to the consistency of overcooked spaghetti by underestimating how hard this is. It's really amusing to see the reaction of a newbie macho man when after sixty seconds the 98 pound woman in the next group is hitting harder and faster than he is.

    In Wii Tennis, you lose the main benefit of real tennis: running. Wii Boxing is far superior to Wii Tennis because you are encouraged to keep your upper body in constant motion, which as we've seen uses a lot of energy. It would be even better if there were a head tracking device, or something like a DDR mat that gave you more interesting tactical options like circling, advancing or retreating. One thing that newbies have trouble putting to use is that there are more directions in sparring than just forward and back. It adds a whole new um... dimension to the sport. Moving side to side is part of the answer to practically every kind of fighter. If you have a guy with a lot of reach, you throw of his sense of distance shifting to the side. If you have a powerful, aggressive puncher, you keep in circling so he can't plant his feet for a heavy punch. If you've got a southpaw, you move left to get out of range of that sneaky left hook, and so you can cross his lead with your own left hook.

    It would be better exercise too, not because the lower body motions are huge in themselves, the key is that you'd have more of your body moving at one time. It is reasonably easy to throw 120 fast punches in three minutes if you are standing flat footed, but if you are shuffling forward and back, side to side, doing a little bobbing and weaving and its a serious workout, even though if you kept your hands perfectly still those motions would hardly amount to anything.

    Of course, it still depends on the user. More experienced users are no doubt more efficient, just as more experienced sparring partners are more efficient. But the key is that it is to your advantage in the game then to throw more punches and blocks with your saved energy. In tennis, as you get more efficient, it is more advantageous to relax and wait for the next ball.

    Of course I totally agree, Wii Sports -- even Wii Boxing aren't a substitute for working out. But I think the Wii points the way to games that are much more active. I'd like to see head foot and hand tracking incorporated into future games. Non-shooting combat games are ideal for getting the whole body into motion.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor