The most recent comes from the University of Mississippi. The study loaned Wii Fit units to eight families, who spent three months without the console and Balance Board, and three months using it. In conclusion, moderate Wii Fit use “may have provided insufficient stimulus for fitness changes,” said the study.
Nintendo would beg to differ. The company recently funded a study by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, which found that a third of the games in Wii Fit and Wii Sports meet the American Health Association’s guidelines for moderate exercise.
Yet another recent study from the American Council on Exercise found that the Wii Fit provides “underwhelming” health benefits. However, ACE conceded that Wii Sports is more strenuous, and could help people meet minimum intensity guidelines for exercise.
Do we really need all these studies to declare whether the Wii is an exercise machine? Of course not. If you’re sweating a little after a round of Wii Sports Boxing, chances are you got some exercise. You also probably understand that it’s less of a work out than actual boxing, but it’s better than sitting on the couch. Duh.
The bigger problem with trying to quantify the Wii’s fitness value is that there are too many variables. You can play Wii Sports Tennis from your couch, or you can flail around like maniac. You can play Wii Fit every day for two months, and then never touch it again. Like any exercise, the Wii is totally dependent on what you put into it.
Indeed, the most important point in the University of Mississippi study is glossed over as an afterthought: After three months, the amount of time families spent playing Wii Fit dropped by 82 percent. Sounds a lot like my gym-going habits.
I can’t say it better than Kotaku editor Brian Crecente did in a Forbes feature on the matter: “What Nintendo did is they tapped into that desire people have to be healthier… Everyone wants to work out, but nobody really wants to put the effort into it.”
No amount of scientific fitness measurements can account for that.