Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wii Fit for Riding? "Mii"thinks Maybe So.

It all started on Thanksgiving Day.

Travis and I arrived at my mom's house to find a pack of relatives clustered around the flat-screen TV, cheering and groaning as they took turns playing with the latest in video game technology.

The Wii and Wii Fit were an early Christmas gift to my mom (!) from my grandparents (!!). Just as Nintendo marketers envisioned, it provided us all with an afternoon of uproarious entertainment.

It also got me thinking.

The Wii uses a gyroscope controller to translate a player's physical movements into activities of an on-screen "Mii." The Wii Fit game goes even further by adding a Balance Board, which is rather like an miniature step aerobics bench equipped with sensors that enable the board to register the shifting balance of a player standing on the board. Wii Fit offers a set of aerobic and strength exercises, as well as yoga instruction and a series of balance mini-games.

I'm not much of a gamer, myself. I prefer the real world to a digital environment and count most time spent in front of a computer as wasted, unless I'm using the machine to either learn or teach. All the same, as I sweated off a slice of pumpkin pie on the Wii Fit, struggling to balance despite the hilarity of my family's endless commentary, I couldn't help but wonder...

What if Wii Fit really does improve balance and strengthen a person's core? Could this machine possibly offer a fun, social, effective means of bolstering my riding ability, even during the bitter winter months?

After several hours of practice on the Wii Balance Board, I concluded that the answer was likely to be yes. Core strength and precise body control are keystones of good riding, after all. It makes sense that efforts to hone these via Wii Fit balance games could, in fact, pay off in the saddle.

Travis, who is an enthusiastic gamer (and not the biggest fan of rote exercise) was all for it. Although Wii Fit exercises reportedly burn only about half as many calories as do their real-world counterparts, you must admit that some physical activity, even if its benefit is muted by the fact that it is done in place, is far better than sitting around tapping a keyboard to exterminate digital aliens.

So it was that Travis and I drove to the local Game Crazy and forked over the cash for a Wii and Wii Fit. The system got a good workout yesterday...and so did we. My own two hours of shadow boxing, step aerobics, jogging, hula hooping, yoga, and balance games resulted in some minor sore muscles and, surprisingly, the kind of post-workout satisfaction that compares favorably with a glass of nice wine.

Of course, nothing can improve your riding better than actually riding. So, after 45 minutes of buffing up my Mii this morning, I did 20 miles of that, too.

And now, if you'll excuse Mii, I'm due in digital yoga.
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2 comments:

hilinda said...

How interesting that you should post this now.

I have been wondering about this very thing, whether a Wii might be a good way to have fun with my kids, and actually provide something of a workout.

Did you buy games to go with, or did everything come with the balance board? We went looking the other day, and weren't much impressed with most of what is available. I'm not a gamer, either, so none of the usual game-fare appealed to me. No one had the WiiFit, though, so I couldn't look at the box to figure out what comes with.

Anyway. Interesting serendipity.

Do let us know if you continue to find it worthwhile.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi, hilinda! Interesting serendipity, indeed. The Wii Fit and Balance Board come together; I don't think they can be purchased separately. You have to have the Wii console in order to use Wii Fit. The Wii console comes with the sports game (golf, tennis, boxing, and bowling, I think). We were mostly after the Wii Fit and didn't look into other games -- WF is fun and (hopefully!) useful, but I'd say more as a gentle fitness tool than as an actual game. I was mostly after the balance stuff; Travis likes the idea of more interesting, indoor workouts. I'll post an update in a month or so on how it's going... :-)