One week into Wii Fit, I had gained nearly four pounds. Didn’t matter that I’d logged five-and-a-half hours on the game’s timer (average of 46 minutes per day); that I’d enjoyed walks, bike rides and a long basketball game through the week; that I’d even avoided eating out, snacking late and drinking much. Wii Fit, in spite of its encouragement and games, stresses weight above all, and by day seven, I found myself obsessing over its most glaring metric.
Ah, day seven. I woke up, stepped on the weight-sensitive Wii Balance Board, and found out I was nearly three pounds heavier than the day before, I waited a few hours, stripped down to my skivvies and re-measured. MUST. GET. HIGH. SCORE.
The girlfriend caught me, but she didn’t bust me for being naked. She went the other route: “Tell me you didn’t just go to the bathroom before weighing yourself.” I sheepishly turned my head away.
Wii Lunge, Meet Wii Big Ass
Wii Fit gets a few things right. I’ve become more sedentary since losing my last office job, so having a new source of cardiovascular activity a few steps from the desk has sent my daily average through the roof. The game’s exercise modes mostly push me in new ways—stretching the spine, holding yoga poses and pulling off smooth, controlled leg lifts, all of which tell me how balanced I am mid-exercise thanks to this Wii Board. Direct, immediate feedback without the cost or pushiness of a trainer? I’m all for it.
Clearly, the three fitness modes (yoga, strength training, aerobics) are not fun. Sweat- and soreness-inducing, sure. Fulfilling, probably. But let’s not confuse the tree pose or a 60-second plank ab flex with Call of Duty 4. I’m glad there’s a “game” mode, though—pretend the balance board is an analog joystick, then lean in every direction to aim a skier, a hamster ball, a rolling marble board, and so on. If you only have a few minutes or don’t want to break a sweat, these games can at least boost the heartrate for 10 or 15 minutes, and, yeah, they’re fun.
In many other respects, Wii Fit holds up. The virtual trainers have soothing voices and relatively helpful advice as you do each exercise. The interface is clean. Its exercise selection is pretty diverse. But too much contributed to my seventh day freak-out.
After a few days of play, you’ll unlock the full series of over 40 exercises. Do each of them at a high rep count, and you’ll rack up over an hour and a half of work, which is unfeasible for a daily workout. Begs questions: Would it be best to start my workout with yoga? Or aerobics? Should I just focus on one type of exercise or do a spread of all three? Maybe I should focus on separate body parts every day? How should I mix my routine up over time?
Wii Fit doesn’t answer any of these. You’re thrown in to work out however you see fit, which is weird for a game that logs your every action—not a single recommendation, huh? Wii Fit also doesn’t answer or advise much with a lot of yoga poses. When I first did the tree pose, my girlfriend saw me struggling and suggested I lower my raised foot closer to my knee. This worked perfectly, as did all of her other suggestions (none of which were given by the Wii’s virtual trainers). Too bad every copy of Wii Fit doesn’t come with a yoga-wise friend.
Worst of all is Wii Fit’s obsession with weight. It wasn’t until day seven that I cracked open my instruction booklet and saw that its BMI (body mass index) scores should actually scale for users with more muscle mass. This text is in fine print, as is a warning that users under the age of 20 shouldn’t rely on BMI readings. Would be nice, then, if the game didn’t declare my 16-year-old alter-ego “overweight” with absolutely no asterisk. (There’s also the legit tale of a 10-year-old whose Wii deemed her overweight. What fun.) And if your weight spikes on a given day, Wii Fit will demand an explanation. Seriously—jump two pounds or more, and you are forced to explain yourself with one of eight choices: “Ate too late,” “Indigestion,” etc. Sadly, the thing lacks choices such as, “I’m going through my period, you heartless piece of plastic.”
(Though I’m already running too long here, God, I have to point one little thing out, mostly cuz it drove Golob nuts during his test run. When you step on the Wii Balance Board, a little girl’s voice usually exclaims, “Oh!” I think it sounds like a little girl being stepped upon; someone else said it sounds like “a nine-year-old who’s just been fingered by an older man.” Either way, creeeeeeeeeepy.)
Wii Fit’s hype has resonated with plenty of weight-conscious folks—here’s a convenient, fun device that can finally motivate you to get to it, tubby! But if Nintendo wants to sell this as a complete training solution, education is crucial. Wii Fit offers no true fat measurement, little info about weight fluctuation (it’s there, buried under demanding weight-spike questions), and no smart recommendations based on the data it saves. If you know what you’re doing—been through the gym circuit, have a grasp on yoga, know that a scale is hardly indicative of true fitness—then Wii Fit is a solid tool to fill the gaps in your schedule and keep you active when you’re at home. I like its yoga poses, its dynamic measurements, and its easy access.
But I hate that it’s made me a slave to its scale. The little information that Wii Fit offers is drowned out by the fact that it turns your weight into a score, greeting you in the form of a glaring, daily chart. Welcome to disorder city; don’t forget to take a dump before you hit the power button.