When it comes to video games and kids, I have visions of my kids turning into total eye-glazed couch potatoes. So, when a game comes along that promotes physical activity, I’m going to take a look at it – albeit with some healthy scepticism. My kids have already clued into using keywords like “healthy” and “educational” when it comes to eeking out some extra screen time which is doled out sparingly around here.
So, when we powered up the Wii Fit U with a Wii Balance Board, I wondered just how much a video game can do to keep me and the kids active. Nintendo have also released the Fit Meter, their take on a fitness tracker.
I really like the design and community extensions around the Fitbit and the Nike+. So I wondered what Nintendo was bringing to the table. Firstly, the tracker is inexpensive. It retails for $19.99. Of course you have to own a Wii U. The Wii Fit U game is a free download for a month, which is extended indefinitely when you buy a Fit Meter (through Jan 31). But unlike the other trackers, Nintendo is a game company and it shows in the entire Fit Meter experience. It plays like a game that’s about fitness as opposed to fitness that has been “gamified”.
We are currently in the middle of a 13-mile walking challenge around Sydney (while we live in New York). You can also choose altitude challenges. One of the most fun experiments came after my second grader son wore it at school for a day. (He had strict instructions not to take it out or make it a distraction.) Here’s a snapshot of part of his day.
You can see that during yard at around 11:30, his running activity spiked (all those red lines). Then he ascended about 150ft as he returned to his classroom for lunch, when activity was “light”. It was fun way to see just how physical he is around his school day. It was also a little embarrassing to see how my data (withheld to protect the innocent) paled in comparison. Suffice to say that I should add PE and Yard to my regular work day.
Wii Fit U includes over 70 different activities. I like the idea of putting together a personalized workout program by stringing together a series of exercises and games. We tried out a bunch of games together. I’ll confess to being sore after an intense round of Core Luge.
You have to balance on your butt while navigating a luge run. Leaning forward, backward, and to the side was actually a lot of work for 2+ minutes straight. Now, if you want to “cheat” you can lower your legs or put your hands on the ground and still get a good score. But people are always going to find corners to cut with their workouts. I can’t blame Wii Fit U for not being a better exercise cop.
One of the more disconcerting aspects of the whole experience was the calculation of my BMI, balance, and then my Wii Age. My Mii avatar’s waistline actually grew when my BMI was revealed. Thanks for the tough love Nintendo! Also, the Wii Age put me and my kids decades older than our actual age. So, that was a little disconcerting, but also made me wonder about the usefulness of the Wii Age as a data point.
My kids enjoyed Dessert Course, a game that utilizes the Wii U controller as a “tray” with a dessert on it as you walk on the Balance Board to deliver desserts in a large ballroom. It was fun, but they got a little frustrated when their walking in place movements weren’t picked up properly by the Wii Balance Board.
Will I reclaim my pre-parent fitness level by doing Wii Fit U? Probably not, but incorporating fun fitness challenges into our day-to-day is a net positive for me and the family. Being able to “get credit” for activities outside of the house when wearing the Fit Meter is a huge plus.