Fitness Games Don't Have Enough Shame

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Gamer-Size Me

Feeling unhealthy, overweight and depressed? There's an oft-overlooked solution to your body image woes: Play more videogames. Craig Owens spends two weeks with a selection of fitness games to figure out which ones make the cut.

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I remember talking to a friend about using Wii fit, and it assured her she was losing weight on a daily basis, at the projected numbers.

Then one day she was using it, went to answer the door, came back and had apparently gained five pounds.

She has not used it since. No substitute for gym and regular walking.

Craig Owens:
...sic
"At this moment, I can't help but feel a bit betrayed. If any one company had a hand in my fall from svelte, toned grace, it was Nintendo. You didn't have to put 96 levels in Super Mario World, did you, Miyamoto? And what was I doing when the other boys were playing football? I was catching 'em all, that's what."

I apologise in advance for the unsympathetic tone of my reply. But people should learn to take responsibility for their actions rather than palm it off onto others.

And you didn't have to play the game. That was your choice. Play Mario or go outside with your chums - Nintendo didn't make that decision for you, you did.

You really shouldn't blame Nintendo for your own decision.

I fear my oversize problem is not based on games alone. I walk everywhere I need to go and I am in the Gym 5 days a week for at least 2 hours. Still no dice, I just like eating to much.

I feel like games have another effect on me, they distract me from eating. As long as I have a good game I have to play (like Torchlight now) I eat less.

But if I am bored, I start eating. Games make me less bored.

The problem I have with those games shown here is:
1. They take money from desperate people.
2. They aren't much fun and shouldn't be called games at all.

To 1.: You wouldn't pick up such game just for fun, you would buy something else. The only people who buy this are unhappy people. Well at least they are doing something about it, but they are other better ways.

To 2.: Have you tried playing them without the need to reduce your weight or something? They are just boring. Wii Sports was hard on the border, but Wii Fit is in my opinion very unappealing. Even from a casual point of view. It just doesn't justify the price.

Craig Owens:
This got me thinking about the problem with virtual trainers in general: There's no shame. Whenever I turned up at the gym having missed a couple of sessions, or whenever I failed to reach my goals, my personal trainer, the terrifyingly well-built "Cliff," would look at me with a well-honed gaze of thinly veiled disgust. And it worked - which is why companies like Weight Watchers have built whole business models around the hot and needling sting of public embarrassment.

This is why I stick to the Gym too...anyone who has tried losing weight on their own knows its not the same when the public eye is on you. (it also isn't the same when you fail to meet your goal and yet your pockets are lighter because you still have to pay the fees...money is huge motivation to lose weight...)

WiiFit is sort of fun. If you told me that I had to use it every day for the rest of my life then I would hate it. It's fine as something to help you with basic fitness over the period of a month or two but cutting down on the pies and ale is probably more important for losing weight.

Hmmm.... games can be a good source of inspiration, but in a surprising way.

I started running after having spent a few years watching my avatar running everywhere in City of Heroes. I thought "He looks pretty fit. I'd be sooo fit too if I ran around like that."

And whaddya know? It worked! I now run 3-milers three times week, with the odd 6-miler thrown in on the weekend when I have more time. And just like an MMO, I'm grinding my speed and my distance with the aid of my handy GPS. And enjoying the photorealistic scenery, of course.

Next on my list - trying out my avatar's flight power; that looks like fun!

My girlfriend wanted Wii-Fit so I picked up a copy when it came out. I like it a lot more than I thought I would.

About five years ago, I was about 220 pounds. I was never fat growing up but after graduation and entering the working world, I was no longer a healthy medium build. I decided to start eating healthy (not easy since I worked for a vending company and was thus surrounded by 20 types of chips and 40 types of candy and chocolates and 30 types of coffee/soft drinks as well as a freezer full of crappy microwaveable burritos, pizzas, and sandwiches as well as about 10 different types of ice-cream). Basically I put myself on a 1600 or so calorie a day diet (no roll-over) and started doing some light exercise. It also helped that I lived near a small mountain so light exercise consisted of walking up that mountain and my job was in a warehouse in the desert--I really just needed to have a not horrible diet to lose weight.

Three months later, I was down to 180 and feeling pretty good about it but I still wanted to get down 165 pounds. This wasn't easy. I ended up quitting my job, which was basically a work out routine five days a week, to go back to school. I didn't have time and all other excuses not to exercise... but I kept a routine of eating healthy and was able to maintain my weight loss. And then I got Wii Fit.

First weigh in was 172 lbs. Shit, I'm doing okay with this weight loss thing. Well, lets set that goal to 165 and away I go. I'm not saying that Wii Fit is a good exercise routine. What it does do is put your weight in front of you and it also shows where you want to be. I definitely credit it for helping me keep an interest in my body health--something I never really took a lot of notice of--they yoga and mini-games and what not are a bonus. If the goal of Wii Fit is to give you a few reasons to get you on a scale every couple of days, its a success on that front. I can't say if it's good or bad as the only factor in an exercise routine since I've never wanted or needed to use it as such.

This is my 534th day and I'm 150 lbs.

... good job reviewing the games... ish.

Maybe just regular diet and exercise are good. Blaming games for you being fat and then running to them to solve your weight problem is like asking your crack-dealer for addiction counseling.

Of course, I have a problem with blaming games in the first place. As an earlier comment hinted at and I have said many times; personal responsibility. No one made you play the games instead of exercise.

I have a regular workout so it doesn't matter how lazy I get while gaming as long as I do my routine every day I'm fine

Almost two pounds in two weeks from playing video games isn't anything to sneeze at, so well done.

I'm curious, though, if you gained it right back.

I remember when I played DDR a lot and that helped me lose a lot of weight at first but then I got injured and now I can't really play anymore but I wanna lose the weight that I had re-gained.

I dont think WiiFit is a suitable exercise resume. Just go to the gym.

Trying to adapt video games to our life is a great idea. In theory. The most successful form of this, is character development and stories, which help us bond with whomever we happen to be shooting with from a third person perspective.
Attempting to bridge the gap between out love of games, and the physical realm, is a dream that will remain elusively intangible for a very, very long time[1].

[1] Or until we get some actual Gundams to fight wars with.

Gamers and Wii Fit will never mix because Wii Fit is more like torture and it has very little physical activity that will make someone break a sweat unless.
In all seriousness, real exercies like biking, swimming, weight lifting, anything else that can be found at a gym is much better than a Wii Balance Board. Nintendo made it to sell to health nuts and maybe it was targeting people who needed some exercise in their life, but I seriously see nothing out coming out of it that is benificial except metal stregth for the unobservant health nuts.

I apologise in advance for the unsympathetic tone of my reply. But people should learn to take responsibility for their actions rather than palm it off onto others.

And you didn't have to play the game. That was your choice. Play Mario or go outside with your chums - Nintendo didn't make that decision for you, you did.

You really shouldn't blame Nintendo for your own decision.

To be fair, the section you quoted from is a touch tongue-in-cheek. I don't even have a wife, let alone a mistress.

BlueInkAlchemist:
Almost two pounds in two weeks from playing video games isn't anything to sneeze at, so well done.

I'm curious, though, if you gained it right back.

Not really, I started a full-time job a little after finishing the article, so I've been kept busy. I'm still hovering right on the borderline of an acceptable BMI for my height, which, to be honest, I'm pretty happy with.

If you want something that will make you break a sweat, find a copy of "Yourself Fitness" for the original XBox or PS2. If a 15 minutes workout with that doesn't wear you out, crank up the difficulty and/or lengthen the workout.

My story may be a little different than most. I decided to use Electronic Arts Wii Active as a supplement to my gym routines not as my sole method of exercise. Mostly because I think getting a small work out is nice in the morning, but making time to go to the gym twice (once for a small wake up workout then 4-5 hours later the real McCoy) while juggling work and an evil baby.

The results are pretty nice, and while I have no experience with other Health genre games it seems to be more aerobic than my casual glances at Wii Fit. The thing that it seems to have helped me most with is a little more variety and it seems to have helped me workout areas that I was neglecting with my routine (Basketball, Running, and Weightlifting). I was basically just performing maintenance I guess but the inclusion helped things start working fast.

I would basically categorize it as active as an Aerobic video. Which I generally boycott on account of being born male (not really, but I just don't get into them). My sister uses Netflix to get aerobic videos regularly (plus you get to try a whole load of different ones) so that may be better for some people who are looking for home fitness as opposed to a gym (which I am assuming most people interested in these games are).

The funny thing is, while it is now a regular part of my routine originally I bought it for my wife. I figured I would never touch it since I exercise so much at the gym (I think anyway). She hasn't touched it in months.

Weighing yourself daily is pointless. Too many factors like food and digestion so you wont get an accurate picture of your weight loss progress.

Do it once every 2 weeks combined with a healthy diet and exercise routine (at least 3 times a week). Results guaranteed.

Fitness games obviously aren't the be-all and the end-all of fitness - most err on the side of caution and fear of legal suits against them and present the user with a workout with about as much physical impact as shopping at the mall. That said, I believe they can have a place in a fitness routine. As with any genre of games, there are some gems amongst the dross that are worth buying.
Wii Fit might have started a craze, but fitness games have been around for a lot longer that that - the old dance mat games that predate Wii Fit by quite a number of years were addictive, fun, and could give you a great workout. Some of the Playstation 2 Eye Toy games were also decent workouts. My current favourite, "My Fitness Coach" for the Wii, is more like an exercise video than a game, but swaps the order of the exercises around each session and changes your routine according to your settings. It definitely gets you puffing. And even Wii Fit, although it does little to improve your cardio fitness, does improve your balance and make you think more about posture.
These games are not an adequate substitute for going to gym or going for a walk - the outside world offers things like sunshine, trees, and people to interact with while you exercise as well as greater fitness opportunities. As a supplement, however, they excel in offering you a workout on an overly hot, windy or rainy day when you might otherwise choose to sit in front of the computer instead of going out for a jog or a cycle. Not everyone can get to the gym easily due to distance or time constraints, and these games can add some welcome variety to a home exercise routine.

PS: 'My Fitness Coach' is a remake of 'Yourself Fitness' for the Wii

For anyone still in high school, my plan seems to work pretty well: Take Gym Class (Or Weights, Aerobics, Team Sports, or whatever is available). Being forced by the school (assuming you choose the class) is one hell of a success in getting you to do things you don't like.

Nice tongue-in-cheek humour, especially the part about Mario. So damn true - stupid Batman: AA. It kinda motivates me to blow the dust off of my WiiFit and continue with my weightloss attempts.

There's a reason it's hesitant to prescribe a diet. Diets don't work. Oh sure you'll loose weight, you might even lose a lot, but unless you keep counting the calories and beating yourself up every time your willpower slips your body will continue to think it's starving.

The distinction here is between a diet and food. It's also the distinction which needs to be made between losing weight and genuinely being fitter, stronger and healthier. To put it bluntly eating shitty food and sitting on ones backside all day cause health problems whether one weighs 150kg or 55kg.

"Healthy eating" is around about three meals a day covering a range of food types yes, even including dessert if you feel like it. It means that when not addicted to junk food one eats what ones body needs, not what a diet book prescribes, or a set of scales. The former is unlikely to work for any but the very few and the latter is a piss-poor measure of health.

Why? Mostly because it's skewed to hell and back. Muscle is denser than fat for example and stating that a set range of height-to-weight ratios is 'healthy' avoids all kinds of other things which may skew it. How much water one drinks, bone density, the density of food consumed, etc. It also fails to take into account actual measures of health such as the levels of bad cholesterol in blood. You can't measure that with scales, just as you can't measure heart rate and blood pressure. Deciding on a goal weight seems a little ridiculous. It also fails to take into account genetic predisposition to body fat, or muscle content, or bone density...

What Wii Fit and its ilk do is provide people with the potentially fun exercise option they need, not to lose weight, but to strengthen and build muscle. I don't think the best way to do this is to push it as the fat gamers alone (as one, it's not my thing, I'd rather walk) but rather to encourage all games regardless of size to give it a crack.

The focus could also be changed from the aforementioned weight counter to say, grinding points or rewards or something better than just watching the scale tick over.

lol, greatest article ever.

I too hate exercise. Good thing i've got demanding friends who drag me to a gym every once in a while. XD

Remember, if you want to keep your weight down you need to excercise constantly, it needs to be a routine, you can't just lose a few pounds and then forget about excercising.

I like martial arts, it's how I stay reasonably fit.

Look, I don't think the Wii Fit is anymore effective than standing up during Rock Band and dancing around. Seriously. It's a game board. How much could you possibly do on it?

Gunner 51:

Craig Owens:
...sic
"At this moment, I can't help but feel a bit betrayed. If any one company had a hand in my fall from svelte, toned grace, it was Nintendo. You didn't have to put 96 levels in Super Mario World, did you, Miyamoto? And what was I doing when the other boys were playing football? I was catching 'em all, that's what."

I apologise in advance for the unsympathetic tone of my reply. But people should learn to take responsibility for their actions rather than palm it off onto others.

And you didn't have to play the game. That was your choice. Play Mario or go outside with your chums - Nintendo didn't make that decision for you, you did.

You really shouldn't blame Nintendo for your own decision.

You...um....get that was mostly a joke right? There's no need to respond that harshly to a joke.

Alright, Wii fit and such doesn't have enough real exercise. There's little bits, but you're not going to get in real shape or be moderately healthy just by basic exercises from fitness games.

I swear, everyone misses the point. Consider this:

You want me to exercise. I am just sitting here minding my own business. You want me to start running, and I don't want to start running. What can you do to get me to run? I'm not exaggerating when I say you'd have to chase me with the threat of violence. You'd better have a chainsaw or a pet lion or I'm sitting right here, thanks.

Or, here's a better solution: throw a frisbee. I'll fuggin' run fullspeed after that bitch! And if you put skates on me and give me a stick and puck, I'll exercise even harder, because to me hockey is even more fun than frisbee.

My point is that fun is the best motivator. These games shouldn't provide shame as content; games are supposed to be fun! They should just be more fun to play, to the point where you want to do it daily. I tell you, when somebody figures out how to make players exercise when playing a really fun game (such as Left 4 Dead), suddenly you'll see a lot more gamers in terrific shape.

Maluku:
... but Wii Fit is in my opinion very unappealing. Even from a casual point of view...

Yes, it does. It's a drinking game. =)

WiiFit is no substitute for a real world workout in a gym. It's designed to get lazy people off their asses, even if it's for a mere 15 minutes, with the hopes players might start doing something active on their own.

If you take on such a commitment to use WiiFit as a makeshift workout, you should at least do other things that are healthy, like walking a couple of blocks to the store instead of driving or eating right. I shouldn't have to tell anybody: no matter how much you workout, if you eat shit, you aren't going to lose weight. That should be common sense.

I don't trust wii fit the only reason I had gotten the balance board was for a certain cow riding mini game
(I'm aware this is my second post but this isn't relevant to my first post so I didn't feel the need to edit it)

Hmmm, well I'm going to pick on one point that has little to do with this arguement: Gamers being depressed.

There is some truth to this actually, and frankly I'd say that most of the first world is probably depressed, if not the majority of humanity. If your in a civilized country your pretty much educated with the whole "U R Special" individualistic attitude that you can do anything. Kids are brainwashed from an early age to think that they could a a doctor, lawyer, astronaut, etc... even long after the point where any genius program they could possibly have qualitified for is a foregone possibility. For those without a wealthy family (most of us) and who are anywhere from "very bright" (below the genius level that is recruited) to "dumb as a rock" we go pretty much from being told "we can do anything" to taking a "temporary" job after community college or whatever, while waiting for that massive oppertunity that will come to our specialness that simply does not exist. Having ambition and "chasing your dream" typically means sticking your head into a titanium vice being cranked by scam artists who are out to exploit specifically that sentiment.

As a result, yeah... people are depressed. Gaming is escapism. People who are into gaming heavily and seeking a lot of escapism are looking to get away from something even if it's just a 'go nowhere' grind and a relization of eternal mediocrity. Gaming doesn't really cause depression, it's simply something people use to escape FROM depression, or at least to pass the time from cradle to grave. Being what it is, your going to find a massive number of depressed people involved in it, and given that depressed people tend to be overweight... well the conclusion is obvious.

On the subject of the "exercise" games themselves, they are like any other kind of exercise. It comes down to the person doing the activity and their desire/willpower more than the actual routine itself. The vast majority of people out there will never be pursueing fitness to a level where the exact type of routine is going to matter. The principle of a Wii Fit for example is no differant than say the idea of riding an exercise bike while watching TV or whatever. If you have the motivation to want to get in better shape you'll do it, stick with it, and it will work. If you don't it will fail.

In the end I think a lot of people who buy the wiifit devices probably like the idea of them and have some dreams of self-improvement, but they areguably don't go anywhere because in the final equasion they figure "why bother?". It's not like getting in better shape is going to change anything, even if it leads to a 'longer, healthier life' is that nessicarly something a guy in a total rut aspires to? Better to get whatever kind of mild enjoyment you can with the time you have rather than hurting yourself for no paticularly good reason.

At any rate my points are basically that I feel gaming doesn't cause depression (rather the depressed gravitate towards escapism), and that in the end there is no point to trying to rate exercise devices like this because it's all about the person in the end.

Zetsubou:

Gunner 51:

Craig Owens:
...sic
"At this moment, I can't help but feel a bit betrayed. If any one company had a hand in my fall from svelte, toned grace, it was Nintendo. You didn't have to put 96 levels in Super Mario World, did you, Miyamoto? And what was I doing when the other boys were playing football? I was catching 'em all, that's what."

I apologise in advance for the unsympathetic tone of my reply. But people should learn to take responsibility for their actions rather than palm it off onto others.

And you didn't have to play the game. That was your choice. Play Mario or go outside with your chums - Nintendo didn't make that decision for you, you did.

You really shouldn't blame Nintendo for your own decision.

You...um....get that was mostly a joke right? There's no need to respond that harshly to a joke.

Alright, Wii fit and such doesn't have enough real exercise. There's little bits, but you're not going to get in real shape or be moderately healthy just by basic exercises from fitness games.

If it were a joke, then that's fair enough. That's the trouble with text, I can't read facial expressions and ascertain the spirit of what's being said. I guess I did come across as rather harsh and abrasive. Though I stand by my opinion, I should have been more respectful of others. And for that, I apologise.

But getting back to the Wii games at hand, I think you are correct in saying that the exercises in them are too insubstantial to get someone fit. Though it's not bad to stay in shape if you already are fit and healthy.

Therumancer:
For those without a wealthy family (most of us) and who are anywhere from "very bright" (below the genius level that is recruited) to "dumb as a rock" we go pretty much from being told "we can do anything" to taking a "temporary" job after community college or whatever, while waiting for that massive oppertunity that will come to our specialness that simply does not exist.

The wealth divide is not anywhere near as pronounced over here; things like university places are heavily government subsidised. I am probably not genius level (never been tested for anything like that and probably never will be), nor do I come from a rich family, but my dreams are still alive.

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