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Adjust your expectations and you'll have a lot of fun
on May 22, 2008
First of all, remember that this is *not* a "game". Its a way to get your 40 minutes of daily exercise without making it feel like a lot of work.
What this means is that you probably won't buy this for your under-11 year old. Before you start the "game", you are asked for an objective ... in terms of how many pounds you want to gain/lose. Whether this question is meaningful for your child depends on many factors - and other reviewers question the use of the BMI measure for kids, anyway.
The only true game component of this are the "Balance Games" which turn your balance board into a snowboard, or into a tightrope, etc. However, I don't expect kids to return to this game everyday just to play. In short, its not a replacement for Wii Sports.
So, how does it fare as an exercise regimen?
Not very well so far. I use an elliptical for aerobics, and a [...] machine for strength training, and I can't see myself as shelving those two in favor of this toy. With the elliptical, I can adjust the resistance, get feedback on my calorie burnout, and can determine how long I want to keep going. Best of all, I can even watch TV, listen to music, or read a magazine if I care to.
With the Wii Fit, the cutesy graphics are good, but once the novelty wears out, I'm guessing the chinks in its armor will begin to show. My TV is taken up by my virtual Mii running along, I get to listen to canned music, and there's really no way I can read along.
Strength training is purely isometric exercise based (such as push ups). So, if you're fairly fit and need to work with additional resistance, this is not the place to come find it.
Yoga is where it truly shines. I tried the breathing exercises and a few of the postures, and the instructions were fairly detailed and easy to follow. I expect that I'll use this as a cheap and convenient personal yoga instructor for months to come.
The final aspect worth mentioning is core muscle control and balance. I particularly enjoyed learning how my body is balanced, and it does highlight whether you tend to favor one leg over the other. I can see this as being a worthwhile tool as part of a physical rehabilitation or therapy regimen.
To summarize - if you have trouble getting motivated to exercise, or get bored by exercise machines at home, or can't get to a gym, and you don't care about its limitations, then this is for you.
For those who are really serious about losing weight or getting fit, either setup a home gym or get a gym membership. This will be fun, but will likely be a large waste of your time. The biggest problem would be the inability to set up a sequence of activities that you could run through one after the other. Having to navigate menus to start up the next set is distracting. There is a Favorites tab that lets you get close to achieving this - but I haven't tried it enough to see if its a good replacement.
I'm still in the "novelty" phase - so I'm going to try and make this work. I like the way it tracks your weight/BMI, which is much better than the paper and pencil approach I use currently. However, as stated before I expect to use it more for the balance and yoga portions, *after* I've completed my aerobics/strength activities on more conventional machines.
Bottom line - as with every Wii product, the apparent "shortage" drives up demand and makes this seem more desirable than it should.
As long as you are aware of its limitations, you're in the best position to determine whether this is for you.
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Update (Week + 1):
I've averaged about 30 minutes/day in the past week using this product, and here are some updates to my initial observations:
(a) I've been surprised with how interesting the kids find it. They can't wait to get higher scores than me, and are constantly pushing to get ranked higher in almost all activities. Every evening I come home to scores that are better than mine, and am forced to play catchup. The balance games were an expected favorite, but I certainly didn't expect push-ups and the tree pose to capture their fancy.
(b) The menus are nagging at best, and annoying at worst. My workout style is to focus on the activities at hand without needless conversation/distraction, and that's hard to do when I have to repeatedly click the A button just to get started. The text has this annoying teletype format as it prints across the screen, and can't be dismissed until it is displayed in its entirety.
(c) This is compounded by the fact that this device can be very chatty. While some of the messages are good to know, I'd really like the option to turn these off. Counting the number of messages that I need to click past has become a running joke for us now.
(d) Because I can't automatically string together activities in a logical sequence, I need to have the Wii-mote handy. Finding a home for it is a challenge when I don't have pockets, or need both hands for balance and can't be bothered to hold on to it (as in some of the more kinetic strength activities, or the yoga poses that need my fingers locked together).
(e) Even worse is that you need to aim the Wiimote at the screen to click the menu buttons, which is an exercise in frustration. I'm mastering the art of using the arrow keys (the rocker switch) and the A button while the Wii-mote is in my pocket, but its still a problem when I hit the wrong button, which I seem to do frequently enough :(
(f) A yoga/gym mat is a necessary accessory - otherwise having to lie on your back when doing the jackknife for your abs means your flooring comes in contact with a very sweaty T-shirt. I'm not so certain about the silicone cover. We've used ours pretty rough, and I don't see any serious stains or dirt on it. And anyway, I like my workout machines to show some wear as a badge of honor :)
(g) There is a half baked interface which allows me to track activities that I do outside of the Wii - such as jogging. So far, I've been logging my other workouts, but since I don't seem to earn Wii points for those, I can't tell how that factors into the overall Wii experience.
(h) The BMI/weight tracking using a line graph, is really a nice touch.
(i) Rather than a primary weight-loss device, I use it as a nice way to wind down from a heavy workout, and it serves that purpose very well. A commenter below questioned its usefulness for yoga. True, it does seem funny to learn yoga from a game console - but the funnier thing is that the yoga poses do seem to work very well to ease up strained muscles. Combine this with the immediate feedback as to how well you are balanced, especially on single leg poses, and you have a really unique combination.
(j) The balance games are fun, but I tend to spend only a fraction of my time on them. I'm willing to take Nintendo's word that its good for me, but I'd rather spend my scarce exercise minutes on the other Wii Fit activities. After all, there's only so many times I can enjoy riding my bubble to the end of the stream.
(k) The fact that the balance board is wireless is a wonderful touch. Its easy to hide it under the couch when its not in use.