Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus exercise equivalents

Regular exercise has been shown to be helpful in the prevention and management of a variety of clinical neuroscience conditions including: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, major depression and anxiety disorders. However, motivating people to get involved in a regular exercise program is a significant challenge. Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus may provide the motivation edge for some patients to start and maintain an exercise program.

The Wii video game system is a multi-gaming experience that includes modules designed to promote aerobic exercise, balance and stretching. Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus are two programs that promote physical exercise. Wii Sports includes five activities: golf, bowling, tennis, baseball and boxing. Wii Fit Plus 63 activities grouped into yoga, resistance, balance and aerobic exercises.

The precise aerobic exercise values for the more active games for Wii received limited study. Now, a group of researchers at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan have published an important study on Wii game MET values.

MET or metabolic equivalent of tasks is a measure of aerobic effort required based on degree of effort. Typically rest is about 1 MET and physical activity is rated above this level. MET level will also be related to calories burned per minute by the activity.

The Japanese researchers had twelve adult men and women participate in each of the 68 Wii activities for an 8 minute period. Energy expenditure was calculated for each program using a open-circuit indirect metabolic chamber. This is a precise expired gas method with documented reliability and validity. MET values for each Wii exercise was calculated. Twenty two (33%) of the Wii activities were classified as moderate intensity (3.0 to 6.0 METs) in the experiment. Here is the list of the top 10 Wii activities ranked by MET value from the study:

METS (Activity)

* 5.6 Single-arm stand
* 5.1 Basic run
* 4.2 Boxing
* 4.2 Hula Hoop
* 4.0 Running Plus
* 4.0 Push-up and Side-Plank
* 4.0 Advanced Step
* 3.9 Rhythm Boxing
* 3.6 Boxing Squat
* 3.5 Balance Bridge

The other Wii Sports activities not in the top 10 were: golf 2.0 METs, Bowling 2.7 METs, Baseball 3.0 METs and Tennis 3.0 METs.

To compare these values with other forms of exercise, here is a list of MET values for a variety of exercises. These activities were selected from the website Healthful Life Project.

METS (Activity)

* 16 Running @ 6 minutes per mile
* 10 Running @ 10 minutes per mile
* 10 Bicycling @ 16 mph
* 8 Jogging @ 12 minutes per mile
* 6 Bicycling @ 10 mph
* 5 Tennis doubles
* 5 Walking @ 4 mph
* 4.5 Golf carrying clubs
* 4 Walking @ 3.5 mph
* 3.5 Golf not carrying clubs
* 2.5 Bowling
* 2.5 Walking @ 2 mph

You can see that the top Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus activities fall in the range of walking a moderate to brisk pace. The study documents that specific Wii activities can be competitive with other moderate exercise activities. A series of high MET activities conducted in sequence would be a reasonable way to meet the recommended 30 to 60 minutes per day of physical activity.

Based on the MET values, a ballpark estimate of calories burned by the top 10 would be about 400 calories per hour (4 to 5 calories per minute). Obviously, this value will vary based on individual effort and weight.

This is an important study that will allow professionals to design programs for exercise using the Wii video game system.

William Yates is a family physician who blogs at Brain Posts.

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