Study evaluates health benefits of Wii Fit
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND - Student researchers at Southeastern Louisiana University have determined that playing certain video games is not only fun but could play an important role in keeping you healthy.
Last year, students Jennifer Worley and Sharon Rogers set out to measure the metabolic responses of the body when playing Wii Fit, a popular “health wellness” game created by Nintendo. Robert Kraemer, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies, supervised the project.
“These games can be used as an effective mode of physical activity to improve health in adult women,” said the researchers, whose study was published in the March issue of ‘The Journal of Strength and Conditioning.’ “However, players should strive to participate at higher game levels to gain exercise benefits.”
Their work is considered to be among the first to evaluate whether video games that incorporate physical activity can actually provide sufficient exercise to improve a person’s health. Worley is currently working on a master’s degree in exercise physiology at East Carolina University, while Rogers will be entering a doctor of physical therapy program at LSU Health Sciences Center.
Kraemer said the researchers brought in eight untrained adult women for a fitness assessment and then put the participants through a series of sessions on Hula, the hula-hoop simulation game, and Step, an aerobic step exercise. The students assessed oxygen consumption and energy expenditure along with other metabolic responses as the participants progressed through more intense levels of the game.
“We decided to look at what kinds of metabolic responses people would experience by playing Wii Fit,” says Kraemer. “Oxygen consumption, which represents cardiorespiratory fitness levels, was a key factor because it deals with the heart, muscles and use of oxygen in muscles.”
Initially neither game produced the effects that researchers predicted, but as the difficulty increased, the results showed definite improvement. Both games gave the same results at the intermediate level as walking at a speed of 3.5 miles per hour. In the end, the Hula game produced the strongest results.
“This could be attributed to the fact that Hula involves more total body movement exercise than Step and uses more muscle groups,” said Worley. “Moreover, more advanced game levels significantly increased the results.”
The researchers concluded that the study showed that this form of video gaming could be used as an effective mode of physical activity to improve health in the population.
“Using the Wii Fit puts the right kind of stress on your body, helps burn calories, and puts stress on the muscles,” said Kraemer. “And sometimes, when weather doesn’t permit you to go outside, this provides a nice mode of exercise.”