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Wii Fit - Didn't replace my personal trainer but my child with Autism LOVES it!
Written: Jan 24, 2010 (Updated Jan 24, 2010)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Kids like it, got my autistic child active, tracks your fitness level, fun games
Cons:doesn't feel like exercising and hard to take it serious
The Bottom Line: For $100 it will provide active entertainment and a lot of games now uses the balance board. Kids like it.
Last year I got the Wii Fit for Christmas like I'd asked for. I wanted it to exercise on and thought it would be a way for me to get in a quick workout here or there instead of sitting on my butt. I started working with a personal trainer to help me and thought this would be a nice way to keep active in between our sessions. Not a bit more than a year later, I am still working out with my personal trainer but I've long since given up on Wii Fit for any amount of "serious" workout. I'll still hop on it time and again to "play" with it but the Wii Fit users (daily) in my house are 9 and 4 years old.
About the Wii Fit
The Wii Fit consists of the Wii balance board and the Wii Fit game disc. Nintendo has recently come out with an 'upgraded' version called Wii Fit Plus, that you can purchase separately for $20 if you already have the balance board. This review will deal with the original Wii Fit disc not WFPlus.
The balance board is a white & grey "step" that is approximately 20"X12". The board is flat and pretty low to the ground. To get it going you'll need to load it with batteries (4AA) and then sync it with your Wii. This is a quick process and similar to how you initially sync up your Wii remotes with the console. With the game disc in, it will walk you through setting it up to get started.
The Wii Fit uses your miis that you already have created and you can import them into the Wii Fit game. The Wii fit can hold 8 game profiles, so our family of 4 is easily accomodated. Each profile needs to be set up individually which requires you getting weighed and completing a series of balance tests. After entering some info like your height and the thickness of your clothing it calculates your Wii Fit Age and then modifies how your Mii appears on the screen. In other words, I'm not too tall and I have a few extra pounds so it made me look rather short and fat while my husband is 6'2" and it stretched his Mii up and made him tall and thin. It tracks the time that each player uses the Wii Fit with a Piggy Bank (that my son calls "The Toaster") and how many days it is has been since you log in (Each day you do, it stamps on a calendar). Also, you can set a goal to lose, maintain, or gain weight by a certain date. You get to pick whether you want a female or a male trainer to interact with you thoughout the game. The trainer will give you tips or comment on how you are doing a certain exercise as well as demonstrate on your TV how to do a certain pose for yoga or exercise in the strength section. Other exercises use your miis and play out more like the games from Wii Sports or Wii play.
The Wii Fit has fitness games broken into the following categories: Balance, Strength, Yoga, and Aerobics. It starts out with a few exercises in each area and as you play each game for a certain amount of time new games are unlocked. For example in balance games you start with a head-butting soccer game, ski jumping, and tilt table and as you play you'll get to unlock things like a tightrope walk, navigating a bubble down a river, a penguin slide game or a lotus flame concentration game. Aerobics includes hula & super hula hoop, basic, advanced and free step aerobics, rhythm boxing (needs nunchuk attached to wii remote), as well as running (basic, free, and 2 player run). The strength & yoga exercises are less play and more like doing actual exercising. I would suggest using a Yoga Mat for these exercises, you can get specifically branded Wii accessories but any Yoga or Fitness mat will do. The Strength exercises are things like leg extensions, leg or arm lifts, planks, torso twists, squats or push-ups. Yoga starts with deep breathing and then adds in poses like the warrior, downward dog, sun salutation, or palm tree.
I had all the best intentions in the world to use my Wii fit regularly when I first got it. In the beginning I used it almost daily and bit by bit I unlocked my profile so that I could access all the different activities. Though the Wii Fit made my player look short and fat and told me that I was overweight, this was what I'd expected and I was glad that I was able to lock my weight and personal info up from my husband and kids messing around with it. Not like they would but I felt better about it nonetheless. The Wii fit initially told me that my Wii Fit age was close to my actual age, so I wasn't discouraged. However in subsequent days that I retook the test I found that it could vary greatly day by day. One day it told me I was 60 (I am in my 30s) and another day it told me I was 12. My problem area tends to be my balance coupled with my attention span! If someone would talk to me during one of the tests or the phone would ring or the dog would walk through the room those few seconds of shifting my weight wrong would change the results significantly. Also, the Wii Fit balance board doubles as a scale and since ours is on carpet - it is incorrect.
When exercising on the Wii Fit, I didn't feel like I was exercising. I was having fun, but I also found that I wasn't getting a real good workout. The strength exercises came the closest to "real" exercise and the yoga is good for me to do when I'm feeling stressed or unfocused to help me find my center again. But, overall - the aerobics didn't do it for me though I can definitely rock a mean super hula hoop score or at least thought I could until my 4 year old stole the champion slot from me! I can't do step aerobics to save my life at the gym - always get off of the "beat" and with the balance board being so low to the ground I kept tripping and falling. As far as the balance exercises, I should probably do these more than I do because well - my balance is really bad (but not as bad as my husbands who has a Wii Fit Age practically double his actual age - but oh, his Wii Fit Mii looks skinny and great when compared to my rotund one!).
So, ultimately a year later - I'm not doing the Wii Fit every day or even every week. I go on it once in a while when I want to do a little stretching or yoga or to check and see what it says my weight or Wii Fit age is. I'll go on when a message is scrolling on the Wii Channel that says "Its been X days since MaryTara..." and my kids tell me that the Wii Fit wants me to come back and play it. Ultimately, I found this to be "fun" but it didn't come anywhere near the type of exercise that I want/need to be doing.
The Wii Fit did not replace my personal fitness trainer, nor did it even come close. I had a hard time taking the Wii Fit and its included games seriously. I have since gotten some different exercise games that go with it like Wii Cardio Max Workout and The Biggest Loser and am trying to re-dedicate myself to using the Wii Fit, but its just not doing it for me.
The Kids Experience
My kids, on the other hand, LOVE the Wii Fit. They play on it daily. I had heard advice to basically ignore the "wii fit age" and profile info that it calculates for kids. The balance tests aren't made for kids to easily or accurately complete and BMI is just not a valid measure for kids (nor many adults). My son came up very old at first on the Wii Fit but he also has low muscle tone (hypotonia) and is very thin. It didn't tell him he was overweight but it said he was very old. Over time this has gotten better for him and he now comes up true to his actual age but I don't know if this means he has actually improved his fitness or if he has finally mastered how to do the balance test from "practice makes perfect" and using it every day. In his case, the Wii Fit absolutely has made him more active vs the sedentary (yet skinny) kid that he tends to be (likes books & computers over sports). My 4 year old absolutely bombed the fitness tests but she likes to play on the Wii Fit (when her brother gets off of it) and I have no concerns that she is overweight or out of shape because she isn't even if the Wii fit thinks she is - its just wrong on that.
The Wii Fit and Autism
My son is 9 years old and is on the Autism spectrum. He loves to play on the Wii and the Wii Fit was an unexpected surprise for me in how much he loves it. I figured he would mostly play the fitness games which he does, he is the reigning champion for all of the balance games and can play a mean table tilt compared to my pathetic attempt. He was the first to unlock any extra balance games and he really loves to "play" the penguin slide. He also spends a lot of time in the aerobic section and apparently he is better than I am at the step aerobics also - he loves doing it and gets back on the beat better than I can even come close to.
During the step aerobics you will be joined on the screen by other miis in your wii channel so my kids will comment "look, I'm doing step with you Mommy, you look fat!". Nice, it is so good to feel loved. The aerobics activity that he likes best is the running and he's unlocked all the extra laps where you can run for a longer time. You are supposed to run with the Wii remote in your pocket but he figured out how to CHEAT and shake the remote but not run! He'll alternate between actual running and cheating - and the Wii Fit cannot tell that this is cheating. He's having a blast and shaking the remote so that his mii goes quick and then falls on its face or it tells him his pace is uneven. The Wii Fit simply isn't smart enough to know that you are cheating or not doing the exercise correctly and it still counts it as exercising! During the running you'll see other players in your mii run past you or run in the opposite direction or you can catch up and pass them. My kids however like the fact that it gives you a little dog as a guide and they like to chase the dog. They've also given each of the dogs names - the brown dog is Chocolate or Josie (our dog), the golden is either Sunflower or Goldie, the white dog is Ella, Bolt or "Snow Dog" depending on the day. They really get a kick out of running, of all things - though I also suspect that this has to do with the fact that running is one of the only things on the Wii Fit that you can add in a 2nd player to play simultaneously without taking turns and loading up a second profile.
I honestly figured that my son would spend most of his time in the Aerobics and Balance section which are more about games and using the miis than the Strength and Yoga exercises. So, I was thrilled when he started doing those activities and though he only occasionally goes into the strength exercises section (I think they are just too hard for him with his low muscle tone) he really likes - no LOVES - doing Yoga. When he was younger he liked to do a kids Yoga DVD (Wai Lani Kids) and his class also does Yoga daily with the Physical Therapist and his teacher - so I shouldn't have been surprised. Ok, I did get a kick out the fact that he insists on the doing the yoga in his boxer briefs because the male trainer is wearing a bike short and he has to "look right". However, I'll deal with my kid doing yoga in his underpants in my living room for 15 minutes or so every day if this is an activity he finds enjoyable. Just a little bit of the daily yoga has really proved to be good for him for focus and self regulation. He tends to be either in "slow motion" understimulated or hyper - overstimulated, and this is a really nice balancing activity for him to do. I'm all for it and when he asks me to try the pose with him, I will strike a pose without hesitation. For the fact that my son is exercising on a regular basis the $100 price tag for the Wii Fit has become priceless.
Related links to check out:
You can also check out this article that I authored at Bella Online "Consider the Nintendo Wii for Kids with Autism": http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art58580.asp
The Wii Fit didn't fit the bill that I initially hoped it would, that it would help me be able to maintain an at-home exercise schedule and supplement my personal trainer. For me, it is fun but not motivating enough for me to stick with it. For the kids, the Wii Fit has proved to be priceless. Both my children play it regularly with my 9 year old son playing it daily. I absolutely recommend it for kids with autism and have seen where this, along with the Wii have really helped him (as well as kept him entertained and out of trouble). I love that the Wii Fit has him up and exercising and moving.
Also, the Wii Fit Balance board is being incorporated into more and more Wii games. Since it is only sold with the Wii Fit (or new Wii Fit Plus) game disc, you'll need to buy the Wii Fit if you want to play certain games. In our house, the popular games that use the Wii Fit is Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games and Raving Rabbids TV Party. My son also recently asked if we could purchase the new Wii Fit Plus, which is just $20 and has a few more games and customization options.
Since the Wii Fit is fun for the whole family and more and more games are using the balance board - I'd absolutely recommend buying it. So, its not serius workout material but its definitely fun and I would say a "must have" add on for you Wii.
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