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'Wii Fit' workout game gets beyond thumbs

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008

If you're worried about how you're going to look in a bathing suit this summer, perhaps video games deserve some of the blame. You know, too much "Grand Theft Auto IV," not enough cardiovascular exercise.

Courtesy Of Nintendo
Courtesy Of Nintendo

Ironically, a new video game peripheral may be just the thing to help you get back into shape. Out this week, Nintendo's "Wii Fit" ($89.99) is a workout-themed add-on for the popular Wii console. "Wii Fit" includes a Balance Board peripheral, and it's unlike any video game device you've ever tried. Players start off by entering their height and then standing on the Balance Board. The board weighs the player and then calculates Body Mass Index (BMI). No fair adding extra inches to your height, by the way.

The Balance Board itself weighs in at a hefty 8.8 pounds and uses a wireless signal to interact with the Wii console. A system of internal scales allows the unit to track the player's movement. Once the device has calculated the player's BMI, a balance test will determine what Nintendo terms the player's "Wii Fit Age." With the preliminaries done, "Wii Fit" offers the player the opportunity to work on strength training, aerobics, yoga or balance.

The player does not always stand on "Wii Fit" to use it. For example, the strength-training portion includes push-ups, in which the player's hands are placed on the device while the exercise is done. Among other strength-building activities are torso twists, a rowing squat and a sideways leg lift.

Aerobics fun includes a simulated hula hoop along with stepping and running exercises. The yoga portion includes deep breathing as well as several exercises with names such as downward-facing dog and sun salutation, which I suppose will mean something to those who have done yoga in the past. Balance games include activities like slalom skiing, tightrope walking and heading soccer balls.

The "Wii Fit" software helps players set fitness goals and track daily progress. Up to eight people can create profiles using a single copy of the game.

While I wouldn't count on "Wii Fit" as a serious fitness program, it will burn more calories than any other video game. Plus, it's a lot of fun. I had the chance to try out some of the balance games during the last E3 show (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and they worked quite well. Moreover, additional games that take advantage of the "Wii Fit" Balance Board are in the pipeline. I could see the device working very well for a snowboarding simulation, for example.

The bottom line is, if you have a Wii, you're going to want to own "Wii Fit." Demand is high, though, with some online retailers reporting shortsupplies.



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