Why Wii Fit is Better than the Gym

tkingdoll wi fittingWii Fit has been out in the UK for a while, in a rare ‘we got a game first!’ moment of joy. However, as the awesomeness of the latest Wii peripheral is now available to the USA, it’s only right that I tell you all to go and buy it immediately. Here’s why.

It’s better than the gym.

I am a failed gym-goer, and my objections are not uncommon, which is why anyone who wants to get fitter, lose some weight, or generally feel more active but can’t quite get the discipline together, will love this game, for all the reasons below:

1. You don’t have to leave the house to work out. Sure, that’s no different to buying some lame fitness DVD, but when combined with all of the points below, this becomes much more than squat thrusts with Oprah.

2. It’s a fraction of the cost of the gym. My last gym membership was £50 a month. Wii Fit is £70 for the game and board. More money for extra Wii games!

3. You don’t get checked out by creeps. This was one of my main issues with the gym. I didn’t feel self-conscious working out most of the time, but occasionally there’d be a guy who crossed the line between a quick glance at my bum, and leering. And I’ve been followed into the sauna more than once. Wii Fit doesn’t come with a sauna, but you can get the same effect by boiling a kettle with the windows closed.

4. You can play as Hitler. Or any Mii you can think of. You can be yourself, of course, but that’s boring. I have a whole host of celebrity Miis, so I’m getting to do step class as Liza Minnelli. A bit later tonight, I plan to do yoga as Jesus.

5. Your other Miis are bystanders in the game. I’m jogging through the very pretty virtual park, and there’s Michael Jackson, waving to me! I wave back in a moment of madness. Oh, hi Alf the Alien! I didn’t know you jogged here too!

6. The technology is like we imagined the future would be. Virtual Reality Gaming is really here! Well, the closest the world has come so far, anyway. The board is so incredibly responsive to your movements, it’s staggering. I have never been so impressed with a piece of technology and gaming physics in my life (and I’ve been gaming since Day One).

7. The competitive element will keep you coming back. Because the game gives you a score and star rating for every event, you not only have a clear way to track your progress, but you have constant goals. My sister and I take great delight in knocking each other’s hi-scores into the ether.

8. It’s more fun than the gym can hope to be. Firstly, the range of activities are more diverse, from yoga to hula-hooping, and secondly, there are activities that aren’t actually possible in the real world. For example, when you were a kid, did you have one of those plastic games that had ballbearings in? You had to tilt the game to get the balls into the little holes. Imagine that, human-sized. You stand on the Wii board, and your every tiny shift of weight moves the TV version to roll the virtual balls into the hole. Or straight off the edge if you’re crap. Also, at no point in real gym life do you get to dress as a penguin, or float a giant bubble down a river. Take that, reality! You can’t compete with this rainbow universe.

9. You can do woo-free yoga. The yoga element is actually very good, and far superior to non-Wii yoga because it’s measuring your balance and posture the whole time. You can make minute adjustments based on its feedback. Plus there’s no hint of chakra anywhere. The only bit of slightly dodgy science in the whole game is the BMI index, which isn’t a particularly sophisticated way of measuring anything. But it’s forgivable, because it’s a handy shortcut for ‘progress’, and you can go by weight if you prefer. The game calculates your ‘Wii Fit Age’ based on various tests, and there’s some satisfaction in seeing it improve, but for the most part, the hi-scores and star rating do a better job.

10. You don’t have to wear special clothes. I wore my gym gear (I know, I know, Nike and Adidas in the same outfit is a crime, whatever) for the photo, but usually I work out in my jeans or even…shock horror, naked. Close the blinds if you do that, though.

I admit I was very skeptical about Wii Fit before I tried it, but I was hooked immediately. I already had a Wii, but to be honest I would recommend buying one just for this, particularly as other games are going to involve the balance board. And it actually works as a fitness regime, particularly if you’re going from little or no exercise (well duh). I feel more toned and have more energy, and my sister has a noticeably reduced waistline.

Now excuse me, Liza Minnelli needs to go and beat her virtual hula hooping record.

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  1. It’s interesting that you would post up a review of this today. I was just sitting around last night when I got home from my evening bike ride wondering if the Wii Fit was gonna be worth a darn. Now I might have to give it a try.

  2. I timed it to coincide with the USA release of the game, but I’m glad it’s timely for you personally. Go and buy it! And I’m not even on commission from Nintendo! Although I should be.

  3. Yeah, doin’ it naked is the biggest reason I like working out at home. Plus I’ll find any excuse to not be around other human beings.

    I got Yourselfitness for the PS2 and liked it. I quit “playing” it because I seemed to have reached the games limit. I would do the level 5 cardio program for an hour and barely be winded. I guess I’ll check out the Wii.

    Sadly, I’m in better shape now than I was for my Skepdude picture!

  4. My parents just bought a Wii for the Wii Fit. Depending how much I like it I might do the same, only I’ll tell people I bought it to play guitar hero.

    Ooh. They should combine those two controllers!

  5. Gyms get rich on people who think that paying for a membership will get them motivated and then discover otherwise. They love that because they get money for nothing. Their whole business model depends on people pissing their money away.

    The obvious number one requirement for exercise is that it has to be something you will actually do. After 15+ years of adulthood spent acting like (and becoming more and more shaped like) a human potato, I finally found something that was fun for me: tennis. I’m likely never going to be much better at it than I am now, but for now, it keeps me going.

    I still need something good for the colder months, though, so this makes buying a Wii rather tempting…

  6. I sent my friend the link to this article. His response was:

    [11:15]: That is why I am working from home.
    [11:15]: I purchased it at 9am this morning.
    [11:15]: When I had to run an errand.

  7. Wow. This is such a great review that you’re making me want to go out and but a Wii, and then buy a TV to hook it up to, and then buy Wii Fit!

  8. orDover: My same friend tells me that you can get an adapter to hook the Wii up to a computer monitor. I certainly don’t want a TV either, but I do want to lose 500lbs.

  9. My main concern is that… well… I’m on the “large” size and think I might break the board if I stepped on it. Does anyone have the weight specifications for this?

  10. Thad:

    I am also quite large. I will be at my friend’s house tonight, and he says he will let me try it. I’ll let you know if it breaks.

  11. Donna, you do need to buy a Wii game console. You can get one for $250. There is definitely more bang for buck for someone who wants to play other games.

  12. I still like the Tennis & Boxing games from Wii sports to get my work-from-home-lazy-ass heart rate up. For those who don’t have a Wii the sports game usually comes with it.

    BTW Amazon’s description of the board says “Easily capable of supporting weights up to a maximum of 300 pounds.” I would guess they test if for heavier weights, but that’s what they feel they can get away with to avoid lawsuits from us heavy folks.

  13. Any suggestions as to where one can find one of these? All of my usual sources are sold out.

  14. 300 pounds? That’s me out then… (I’ve often said “you have to be fit to get fit”.)

    Not that I have either a Wii or anything anyway (and no idea when Wii Fit it out in New Zealand).

  15. My nephews have a Wii on which they frequently play bowling and baseball on nice sunny days. In their neighborhood is a big open area where they could play soccer, kickball, baseball or whatever with neighborhood kids. I could see if it was nasty out but on a nice day it seems stupid to me.

  16. tempting…tempting…

    I am just afraid that I will get sucked into gaming and neglect everything else. I tend to be escapist like that.

  17. My original plan for this review was to do it on video. I set everything up last night, but my camcorder is small and there just wasn’t enough light :(

    But I have a tiny bit of footage I could put on YouTube, I suppose.

    Bug, the yoga is pretty much the same as a regular yoga class, in that you have an instructor who shows you the move, and then you do it along with her (or him. Both of the instructors are ‘perfect’). There’s a blue circle that you breath along with (iinnnn, ouuuuuuut), and the instructor gives you feedback as you go (your posture is great!”). Then there’s a bar that shows your balance, and indicates the zone you need to be aiming for. You adjust your balance to move the bar into the zone. It’s very clever.

    Er…I am in the mood for making a fool of myself, so here’s a photo just for Bug Girl of me attempting a yoga pose and pulling THE SINGLE DUMBEST FACE EVER. Don’t say I’m not a clown for skepticism.

  18. One thought, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t wave to Michael Jackson in park even if it was virtual Michael Jackson…I would defintly wave at Alf the Alien though…

  19. Cool! Thanks for the news, Teek. My mate and I just did a podcast today on exercise and choosing the right type for yourself.

    I wish I’d seen this post beforehand!

  20. I don’t get this attitude that kids need to be constantly outside to be healthy. As long as they are active in some way, leave them be.

  21. Yeah, I was highly unimpressed with the whole gym thing as well… Sadly, I also don’t particularly like the Wii, and I’m not about to buy ANOTHER system just for one game (stupid X-Box…)

    Luckily, I do have a few ways of keeping myself in shape, so it’s not as terrible for me as it would be for some people.

    By the way, hiking uphill for two hours while trying to play Gears of War is a much more intense workout than you might think.

  22. Might Dance Dance Revolution be another option to the homebound video exercise enthusiast? You should be able to get in for less than $100 by shopping Craigslist, eBay and thrift stores.

    (I’m a bit outdoorsy and prefer an intense hike in the nearby foothills.)

  23. I’ve failed gym going several times but the latest time actually seems to be sticking! I’ve started doing classes I quite like. As someone mentioned getting at least some enjoyment out of it is the trick. Also striking up a friendship with the instructor has meant a lot of guilt for missed visits!!

    The Wii Fit looks good though (and I like the Wii) so I think I’ll have to start saving my pennies.

    Thad – the unit is out in Australia so NZ can’t be far away if it is not out already. Don’t know about the weight limit (which seems low – 136kg isn’t that big if my maths is right) but I am waiting with interest for Jason’s scientific test. :-)

  24. Please make another post in a month or so, and tell me if its still fun.
    So many things that get people “hooked immediately” end up not being used anymore after a few weeks.

  25. The main problem I found with the yoga though is some of the positions require a mirror to see the screen and feedback when you’re facing down (easy enough to do, I cheat by putting a shaving mirror on the floor). The ‘foot race’ isn’t bad, but it will never beat a treadmill (or the real thing).

    On the whole it’s good for low level exercise for when you cant be damned going to the gym (too tired, raining, creeps, whatever) or dont have the time. The added bonus is that you can do the 30-40 min session the moment you turn it on, as opposed to getting dressed, going to the gym, waiting for a machine to be available, signing in, waiting for the instuctor to show up , etc.

  26. Kimbo Jones (if you are answering my comment):
    I was not saying they must play outside to be healthy but that actually playing baseball would offer more excercise and also they would learn how to get along with other kids. I think they would have more fun and gain socialization skills that would be benefical as adults. I am also not saying adults have to guide the activity. When my brother,sister and I were young we would get together whatever kids we could find to play various games. We had to decide what to play ,make and adjust teams and rules, deal with unexpected situations and a disgruntled kid now and again, and gradually get to know some new people. My sister lives in a big neighborhod where most familys seem to have a number of young kids. If my nephews just went down to the field and tossed a ball around I am sure they would meet some new friends. They would not do this sitting in all day playing with each other (or fighting over who gets to play the game choosing a one person game).

  27. Sounds interesting but I think I’ll stick with Rockband for now. The guitar and vocals don’t require much but the drums on expert kicks my ass.

  28. Toss the kids outside after school and tell them not to come back until dinner. :-)

    It worked when I was a kid. Part of the problem is people are so freaked out about the idea that their kid will get kidnapped. It’s actually less likely now than it was 30 years ago. But you couldn’t tell that from the news or the paranoid behavior of parents. Sigh.

  29. writerdd:
    I think you are right. It befuddles me when people get all hysterical about a minor risk while ignoring more serious risks. For example a couple of people I worked with were all afraid to open mail and wanted draconian government actions when the anthrax mail incidents occurred yet have no problem with speeding ,drinking coffee or talking on the phone while driving.

  30. The other day I read an interesting article about people not understanding statistics (and the odds of certain things happening to them):

    The single most pernicious threat to liberty today is humanity’s natural
    tendency to misunderstand the statistics of rare events. We’re just not wired to have good intuition about things that happen with extreme infrequency.

    It’s here:

  31. Most people just don’t understand statistic or probability at all, Donna. Thus people tend to assess risk poorly.

    But this isn’t all a matter of education and knowledge. Even the most rational among us react with our emotions.

    For example, my girlfriend lives in a neighborhood with a lot of lower-income residents. It is not the urban hell hole with drug dealers on every street corner that people from other (read “whiter”) neighborhoods imagine it to be, but I have heard gunfire in the distance while spending the night.

    This is not an irrational thing to be concerned about. Even kids fooling around with guns…which is what it is most likely to be…is not at all safe, but the reality is that the chances of my girlfriend being hurt by firearms in that neighborhood are still very low.

    That said, anytime I think about it, there will be a part of my brain saying “OMG! Guns!” that it is impossible to reconcile with rational thought. The fear of someone I care about being hurt wins out over legitimate safety concerns every time.

  32. Well, I didn’t actually use my friend’s board thingy last night. Sorry. BUT! I did gingerly step onto it, and it did not crack or creak or otherwise seem in danger of breaking.

    And then we talked about fundamentalists and how their attitudes toward sex can fuck people up.

  33. Johnea13: I was referring to your post but my statement was general. I hear parents bug their kids all the time to “go outside”. I wonder if half the time it’s only to get the kids out of their faces for a little while rather than for health reasons, but that’s a whole other can of worms. :)

    First, “I did it as a kid” is not a good enough reason, for me, to advocate anything. (Would that be an argument ad antiquitam?) Anyway, remember lawn darts? :) Yeah. We were outdoors a lot when we were kids mainly because there was nothing else to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “better”.

    I don’t agree that kids have to go outside for better socializing opportunities. I do agree that socializing is important for normal development, but there’s no reason why kids can’t socialize as much indoors as they do outdoors. It’s just as important to learn problem solving skills, teamwork, and friendly competition – all of which can be learned by playing, for example, video games with friends indoors. Why are kids more likely to fight over a video games than another game? I want to bat now! No I do! Same shit, different pile if you ask me. Kids get into conflict as much as anyone and resolving conflicts is a very important skill as well. Also, just because a kid likes to play indoors doesn’t mean they aren’t into community activities (like sports), playing in the neighbourhood, or inviting friends over.

    I agree with what you’re saying in terms of important developmental milestones and socialization, but you haven’t said anything that can’t be accomplished in any setting either outdoors or indoors. So I’m back to my original statement: I don’t get why people tend to have an attitude that being outdoors is somehow “better” for kids and I don’t agree with that attitude. In my opinion it causes unnecessary conflict between parents and kids. And focusing on what they AREN’T doing by being indoors devalues the activities they have chosen to spend their time on without acknowledging the skills they ARE building. Let kids have fun – as long as they aren’t sedentary and solitary, that should be enough no matter where they are.

    (Sorry if my tone is abrupt, I’m kind of a tell-it-like-I-see-it person and that comes across as rude over the internet when tone of voice is not a possibility.)

  34. I don’t really give a rat’s ass what kids do with their free time, and whether it’s indoors or outdoors. If I had had a computer when I was a kid, I’m quite sure I would have spent a LOT more time indoors. There is something, however, I think to the idea that kids who never spend time outdoors will not gain any appreciation for nature or any reason to want to protect the environment. I only love nature because I spent a lot of time at parks and in the woods and at the beach and even in the back yarn when I was a kid.

  35. Writerdd makes a good point. I got into ecology and environmental sciences through similar experiences as a kid.
    To kimbo jones; I dont explain myself too well sometimes but I was trying to say that my nephews were being sedentary and solitary. The baseball they were playing on the Wii had them barely flicking thier wrist whereas real ball playing would have more physical activity. You could put more of your body movement into it but they quickly figured out the most efficient way to do it. Also they were not playing with or having any chance to meet any neighborhood kids. I am talking what they were actually doing not what is theoretically possible. I get the feeling they would play single player games to the exclusion of all other activities every waking hour.That’s all they want to do even on holidays when company (me and/or grandparents) visit.

  36. I just purchased mine today and ran through the test and 31 minutes of exercises (taking 75 minutes… I’m going to have to shave that down if I want to work out in the morning before work).

    I was surprised by how much I was sweating. Wii Sports never made me break out into a sweat, but I was sweating a few minutes into Wii Fit. It’s definitely something for rainy days and days that the gym just isn’t possible.

    What I really like though is being able to track my progress and getting to play a game while I’m doing something physical. I also liked feeling like I had some idea if I was doing the exercise correctly.

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