Study: We Need More Than Wii Workouts

More than 3 million people had bought Wii Fit consoles by last November. A study finds that just using a video game workout like Wii isn't enough for people in their 20s or for older people who are reasonably fit. To shed the pounds gained over the holidays, more than a virtual workout is needed.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Many people who try, about this time of year, to work off their extra holiday pounds, spend time doing it in front of the television. You grab a remote, plant yourself on a balance board and assume that youre getting a real workout there in front of the TV.

NPRs Allison Keyes asks if that assumption is true.

ALLISON KEYES: Youve seen them - the indoor fitness fanatics. Not the ones crowded into a roomful of sweaty classmates, but the ones at home, working out with their TV video game trainer.

(Soundbite of video game)

Unidentified Man: Lets work together on improving your posture. Lets do the warrior pose together.

KEYES: For would be workout warriors like 24-year-old Chris Sterbank, programs like the Nintendo Wii Fit mean motivation and sometimes big changes.

Mr. CHRIS STERBANK: I lost about 30 pounds doing it.

KEYES: He says he started out with the yoga and was encouraged by the outcome, even though it wasnt much at first.

Mr. STERBANK: I did about a week with just solely Wii, and I saw that I was losing weight, just, I think, it was three-quarters of a pound or something, but I saw a result.

KEYES: But the game eventually suggested other changes to Sterbank, which led to a better diet and a daily run of up to 20 minutes away from the TV.

Mr. STERBANK: The more you play the more it kind of responds to you. So it would say like if I put it to roll late at night, it would say oh, try not playing it so late or well, then it would also suggest like why not try going for a run. So I was like, okay, I'll do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STERBANK: Ill do it.

(Soundbite of running on treadmill)

Ms. SARAH NATHAN: I think I can do it on my own and I dont need to buy a $200, $250 console to do it.

KEYES: Sarah Nathan, a 22-year-old New Jersey native, says she has friends like Chris who have gotten good results from video game workouts, but she prefers real training like running outside or on treadmills.

Ms. NATHAN: Normally I try to do between, Id say 45 to 90 minutes of cardio daily, depending on what Im doing.

Mr. CEDRIC BRYANT (Chief Science Officer, American Council on Exercise): The real thing is going to pay greater dividends in terms of calorie burn.

KEYES: Cedric Bryant is chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise which recently studied the fitness benefits of the Wii Fit and Dance Town. Dance Town is a video game where participants follow on-screen prompts to dance steps.

(Soundbite of song, "The Locomotion")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Everybody's doing a brand new dance, now. Come on baby, do the Locomotion.

KEYES: Bryant says the study found that generally, video game workouts alone arent enough of a good thing. Take the running games on the Wii for example.

Mr. BRYANT: The Free Run and the Island Run yielded about five and a half calories per minute. Real running you would expect to get about twice that.

KEYES: The study found that just using the Wii isnt enough for people in their twenties or for older folk who are reasonably fit. But Bryant says Dance Towns moderate and hard levels are sufficient for many older adults, especially those who are sedentary. Denitra Greer, a Washington D.C. based personnel trainer, explains why one should combine the video game workouts with cardio and weight training.

Ms. DENITRA GREER (Personal Trainer): Well, you still dont have enough resistance and you may not have the full range of motion as you think you do, because they dont challenge that. Whereas, with weight machines and exercise equipment, it challenges your range of motion, and it puts you in a place where you have to use work in certain areas versus a game system.

Unidentified Man: All right. Do this together. Right, walk. Left, walk...

KEYES: Greer says you should get to the gym two or three times in a week, in addition to your video fitness games. But Bryant hopes that just the fun of the games will get enough people off their butts and moving, and active people are healthier people.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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