Proving that the spirit of W.C. Fields is alive and well in New York City, a gym in Manhattan is charging $110 per hour for a workout on the Nintendo Wii.
Personal trainer Dorothy Evans gives the Wii workouts at Gravity Fitness at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, using the back wall of a racquetball court as a 20-foot video screen. "It may have little to do with the real sports, but we get people's heart rates up to 140 to 150 beats per minute - although some of that may just be the excitement of the game," she told the New York Post. Mark Natale, executive director at the gym, said customers are already used to watching televisions while on machines like treadmills and elliptical trainers, adding, "We think of this as just another tool at the gym."
Evans uses the system in conjunction with "real" sports workouts; for instance, she conducts a boxing class in which clients don gloves and learn to throw punches, but between those sessions and cardio drills they also get to play Wii Boxing. "I use it in what we call 'active recovery time,' during which normally I would have them do a wall sit," she said. "But this is like a reward."
Clients were doubtful at first: 29-year-old Robyn Angrick said the typical image of videogamers isn't one she would have associated with workouts. "When you envision someone playing videogames, you get a vision of some kid zoned out. Or you get the picture of that slacker in his mom's basement," she said. "I decided to give it a try to break up the monotony - I just felt like I was in a rut. But I was not really prepared - it kicked my ass."
Gravity Fitness is far from the first to employ the Wii in a fitness program, although it may very well be the first to charge 110 bucks an hour for the privilege. In 2007, hospitals in Edmonton and Minneapolis announced plans to incorporate the system into rehabilitation programs for victims of strokes and other brain injuries, while in May, Westin Hotels and Resorts unveiled a partnership with Nintendo to roll out specially-designed Wii systems as part of its WestinWORKOUT program. In the U.K., meanwhile, the government gave its stamp of approval to an initiative to include the Wii in physical education programs in schools across the country.
Evans said that the Wii, if used properly, can provide a full-body workout, and the American Council on Exercise appears inclined to agree: The agency found that while playing on the Wii is no substitute for getting involved in real sports, it is possible to burn almost as many calories. And for people who still think gamers are either zoned-out kids or basement-dwelling slackers, $110 for an hour on a Wii sounds just about right.