Wii Fit – A Workout for the Fattest Generation

Being a personal trainer, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been asked about Nintendo’s Wii Fit.

  • Is it a good workout?
  • Will it help me lose fat?

My answers:

  • It depends
  • Probably not

What is Wii Fit?

For those readers without children, the Wii Fit is a video game developed by Nintendo for the Wii console. The Wii Fit is unique in that it uses the Wii controller and the Wii Balance Board to enable the user to play a variety of “exercise” games.

In an attempt to market this product as a quasi health device, the Wii Fit calculates your BMI and after a few balance and reaction tests, assigns you a Wii Fit Age. The goal of the Wii Fit is that by exercising with the Wii Fit, you will be able to lower your BMI and Wii Fit Age.

Is the Wii Fit a good workout?

As I mentioned above, it depends. If you are even moderately physically fit, the Wii Fit is a waste of time.

In an article published in the National Post, the Wii Fit was tested in the exercise physiology lab at McGill University. Researcher Tania Taivassalo put the Wii Fit through it’s paces to see what sort of workout you can get with it.

The researchers tested the Wii Fit running game and the hula hoop game.

“According to Jean-Philippe Marchand, a kinesiology master’s student who tested the product in the lab, both the running and hula hoop game required the testers to work out at the equivalent of 60% of maximum aerobic power for children. These results classify the games as light physical activity with the potential to improve fitness among those new to exercise, but with little potential to do the same among the fit population”

Even worse than the low level of intensity was the fact that both games offer only short bursts of activity (under five minutes).

Low intensity plus short duration does not equal Olympic marathon champion.

The researchers’ final word on the Wii Fit: “It is definitely meant for sedentary people or for kids to have fun while exercising — as opposed to sitting and moving their thumbs only.” So, if you, or someone you love is a video game junkie and really, really, really needs to get in shape, the Wii Fit may be a good place to start.

It’s not too intense for a beginner, and it addresses most of the aspects of physical fitness:

Will it help me lose fat?

Without changing your eating habits, it is very unlikely that you will lose much body fat with your Wii Fit workout.  Sorry.

So, should I buy the Wii Fit?

Unless you are very desperate, I would hold off on buying the Wii Fit. While it is incredibly popular right now, I have a strong feeling that in a few months, there will be quite a few gently used Wii Fits being offered for sale on Ebay.

2015 Update

Wii Fit is now Wii Fit U and is available on Amazon for around $50.


  1. I totally agree that the Wii Fit game will not help you lose weight (in the long run).

    You will probably lose more playing Sonic and Mario at the Olympic games as this uses quite a lot of fast movement and is very tiring.

    Sections like the running are more beneficial, but jogging on the spot is not much fun compared to switching off the console and going outside.

    It’s all about convenience really. If my kids grow up with an idea that doing something physical is a good thing and enjoyable, they will be more likely to do exercise in later life.

  2. “Even worse than the low level of intensity was the fact that both games offer only short bursts of activity (under five minutes).”

    this isn’t correct. Free run and free step are up to 30 minutes

  3. “Sections like the running are more beneficial, but jogging on the spot is not much fun compared to switching off the console and going outside.”

    Not when it’s too hot or cold or raining. Not when the only time you can do it is when it’s too dark outside.

  4. Here’s the thing, you say, “Low intensity plus short duration does not equal Olympic marathon champion.”

    Got news for you. Neither will going for a daily stroll through the park, but I doubt that you’d say that going for a walk wasn’t legitimate exercise.

    It doesn’t sound like the study you quote really evaluated the tool, Wii Fit, for effectiveness. It looked at only a couple components of the game. I think we can agree that charting weight can be a motivator to weight loss and getting your butt off the couch is a good thing. Setting the standard at Olympic athlete or marathon racing is only discouraging to most folks. Perhaps it should be evaluated based on what it can do for the typical game user.

  5. Deets,

    Surprise surprise, I disagree with you.

    I don’t think that a 20 minute walk through the park at the intensity of a WiiFit workout is exercise.

    It’s barely transportation.

    If you’re not stressing your body, it’s not going to force a response and it’s not going to improve fitness. To elicit a fitness response, you can work with a number of factors – intensity, volume, time under stress, range of motion, speed, etc…

    I just don’t think that the WiiFit is a very effective tool. But, maybe I am wrong. Considering the popularity of the device, I am pretty sure that it is being tested by medical researchers somewhere.

    If you hear of anything, please shoot me a link. I would be happy to eat my words.

  6. I wonder if this attitude is, in part, causing America to be a fat nation. In a good portion of the world, exercise is a part of daily life: walk to the subway, stroll down the street to see friends, go hand out at the park. In America, if we aren’t training like athletes, we have some body tell us that we aren’t doing enough. Many who aren’t incline to keep up with those expectations give up.

    Why not celebrate the innovative way to get people off the couch? Wii Fit won’t be creating hard bodies or athletes, but if it is an encouragement for some to get up, then celebrate it.

    Now, I’m not saying that it is doing that. I don’t know if it is or isn’t, but the one comment that you made and the method of the study cited both indicate an all or nothing fitness.

    I rather our attitude be that of Scotland. Apparently they are running public service adds to suggest that 15 minutes of anything is better than nothing. The reports I hear are encouraging. People are doing _anything_ when they were doing nothing. Of course, there are few Scots who will be in the Olympics because of these ads, but I had dinner with one who lost 35 pound in 6 months just because he didn’t feel too overwhelmed and discovered that it didn’t have to hurt to work.

    Just an idea.

  7. Hi Deets

    You’re correct that 15 minutes of any activity is better than none. And for some people, 15 minutes on the WiiFit or going for a walk may be all that they can handle.

    And if that isn’t an indictment of our Western society, then I don’t know what is.

    Obviously, I went wrong somewhere if I gave the impression that we should all train like Olympic athletes. Your lifestyle is different than mine and is different than your fellow Scottish diner who lost 35 lbs. What is a tough workout for an Olympic decathalete would probably kill your slimming Scot.

    But, back to the WiiFit…Nintendo is making a ton of money off of a product that is sold on the promise of weight loss and better health. And for some extremely out of shape people, this product may help them succeed at it. However, for the average person, this workout should be a joke. Our great grandparents were more physically active in a single day than most of us are in a month. We should be ashamed that a WiiFit workout is actually challenging

  8. thank you for your help on the wii fit. i think im going to buy one now.
    see i dont have a license so i walk everywhere and on my days off i just dont feel like going out so i stay in and ive noticed that im gettting fatter and fatter so by buying something that will keep me exersizing even tho i dont have to leave the house. i think thats wicked.

  9. I consider myself fit but have always felt I could improve my stretching. We bought a Wii Fit for fun and I must say the yoga has improved my flexibility and balance. I can do this early in the morning and late at night in addition to my normal workout. The strength exercises like the push-up side plank and the arm and leg lift aren’t bad for the core either!

  10. I have a Wii Fit and have been using it for about a week now. I put my heart rate monitor on one day to see what I was burning in an hour of working out. Turns out I burned 479 calories. Now, had I gone outside and briskly walked or lightly jogged or done an eliptical work out, I would have burned around 550-600 in that same hour.

    But I don’t want to do either of the later right now. I used to run 5 miles a day 3-4 days weekly and strength train with a trainer 2 days a week. I am burned out, not to mention broke from all the money for the trainer for 22 weeks. My knees started to hurt so the runs turned to walks. It began to snow, so the walks turned to gym visits on the treadmill. And get this….I have gained 40lbs since Feb 2008.

    I do know that there are some factors that make it difficult to pin point what is happening like age (41) and all of that jazz. But at least on the Wii I am motivated to do it daily. I want to see the scale change and my BMI change. I am now 70lbs overweight and in moderately good shape. I can do pushups and planks and all the yoga poses and the balancing games. I am just fat!

    If I allow the fact that I am not an Olympic athelete in training sink into my head, I would probably veg to 300lbs because it is just not something I believe I can do. So for now, its the Wii Fit daily. Perhaps I will play more than an hour to burn even more calories. But like someone else said, I am doing something. I do work up a sweat and push myself to my limits not the game’s suggested limits.

    That’s my two cents…

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