Menu
Menu
Find a Doctor
Nintendo Wii - Mere Video Game System or Weight Loss Solution?

Nintendo Wii - Mere Video Game System or Weight Loss Solution?

updated

One of this year's hottest Christmas gifts is the Nintendo Wii (pronounced "wee"). Released in the United States in November 2006, Wii is a gaming system that encourages players to get involved – not just strategically, but also physically. But just how much activity do these games require? Is it enough to lose weight? I decided to find out.

Wii Games Pull You Off of the Couch

A major complaint about video games is that kids spend less time playing outside and more time sitting in front of the television or computer, adding to the problem of childhood obesity. Unlike traditional video games, however, Nintendo's Wii offers many games that require you to stand up and actually move. Using motion-sensing wireless controllers, you dictate the action of the game not only by hitting buttons, but also by moving the controllers and, in essence, your entire body.

Using the Wii for Weight Loss

Interested in purchasing a new video gaming system, I began to review the platforms that were on the market, especially PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. During my research, I learned about people who were using the Nintendo Wii as part of their weight loss and fitness programs. As I was also interested in leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, these stories piqued my interest.

Several gamers outlined how they used Wii games, primarily the Wii Sports bundle, to lose weight. Some players did not alter their eating habits or lifestyle; they simply started playing Wii everyday. Others began to eat healthier meals and track calories, while including Wii Sports as part of their daily activities. All of these Wii enthusiasts noted that they achieved some degree of weight loss.

Even though I could not commit myself to a daily game play regimen, I was convinced that a gaming system that promoted weight loss and forced me to move was better than a system that had me sitting on the couch. I bought a Nintendo Wii and decided to see for myself if this system could be a viable part of a fitness program.

A Look Inside of Wii Sports

Included with each Wii console sold in the United States is Wii Sports. This DVD-ROM consists of five games that require some level of physical exertion. The video games on Wii Sports include:

  • Baseball
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Golf
  • Tennis

Also included on the Wii Sports disc is the Wii Fitness Test, which randomly selects three training programs for you to play. Based on your performance, the Wii system rates your fitness level. The fitness test can be done once a day, and the system will track your progress.

Calorie Counter –Calories Burned with Wii Sports

The question remains: just because you are standing up, are you really burning more calories when you play? To answer this question, I decided to conduct a little experiment.

Using a watch with a heart rate monitor and calorie counter, I tracked the number of calories that I burned while playing three of the Wii Sports games (boxing, tennis, and bowling) and calculated the average number of calories burned per hour. I also tracked the calories burned during other activities.

Even though playing Wii Sports did not match the number of calories that I could burn at the gym (see chart), I was impressed with the workout that I got from these games. Of the Wii games tested, Wii Boxing was the most vigorous, burning an average of 360 calories per hour. Wii Tennis was close behind with 341 calories burned per hour. Although Wii Bowling burned less than 80 calories per hour, it was still better than sitting on the couch.

Activity

Calories Burned per Hour

Elliptical Machine

792

Treadmill - Running 6mph

708

Stationary Bike

600

Treadmill - Walking 3.5 mph with Incline of 10

480

Wii Boxing

360

Wii Tennis

341

Walking during Lunch Hour

315

Wii Bowling

78

Working on Computer

72

(The above chart of calories burned per hour was compiled using equipment that tracked calories burned based on heart rate, weight, and physical exertion used during activity.)

Looking Beyond the Numbers

The fact that you can burn more than 300 calories per hour playing video games is pretty amazing. Of course, as shown above, Wii games cannot replace working out at the gym. However, most people probably find Wii games more enjoyable and entertaining than using an elliptical machine or treadmill. It is likely that, as a result, many people would play the Wii games longer than they would use the gym equipment.

Playing tennis for an hour would burn more calories than pedaling the stationary bike for 30 minutes. Similarly, vigorously playing Wii Boxing for an hour would give you the same workout as running six miles per hour on the treadmill.

Future of Nintendo Wii Fitness Games

Nintendo seems to be well aware of the fact that Wii games can add to a healthier lifestyle (especially compared to other gaming systems) and the company seems dedicated to offering games to support this.

The best example of this is Wii Fit, scheduled for U.S. release in 2008. Wii Fit will have about 40 different activities designed to promote fitness and health. The activities that will be included in Wii Fit include hula hooping, push-ups, ski jumping, soccer, step aerobics, and yoga exercises.

Wii Fit will work with a platform peripheral called the Wii Balance Board. Not only will the balance board be used to control activities, but it is also touted as being able to calculate your body mass index (BMI).

Bottom Line – Is Nintendo Wii a Real Weight Loss Solution?

With such games as Wii Boxing and Wii Tennis included with the gaming console and Wii Fit on the horizon, the Nintendo Wii appears to be the most health-conscious gaming system on the market today. Will it help you lose weight or stay fit? A lot of that depends on you.

One pound equals 3,500 calories. So, if you burn about 350 calories per hour intensely playing Wii Tennis or Wii Boxing, after 10 hours of play, you could lose a pound. By playing less than one hour per day, you could burn these calories in about two weeks.

Some Work, but Still Mostly Play

When playing the games highlighted in this article, I got off of the couch and played hard. For example, when playing Wii Boxing, I actually broke into a sweat. That is how I was able to burn the calories that I did. I could probably sit in a chair and play the boxing game, but I would have burned fewer calories. If you want to use the Wii for weight loss, you need to put energy into it.

Also, you need to be dedicated to playing. If you plan to use your Nintendo Wii only once in a while, you won’t shed much weight. However, if you plan to add Wii play into your daily activities, you may begin to see a difference on the scale.

If you changed nothing about your lifestyle and eating habits besides adding about 20 hours of playing Wii games at a high intensity, you could lose about two pounds per month. Forget about who gets the highest score – let's see who can lose the most weight with the Nintendo Wii.

Want More Information?

Contact a Doctor Near You.