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Helen Mirren (partially) credits Wii Fit for her “Best Body of the Year”

Amazing results can happen if you work diligently enough at making your Wii Fit avatar slim and smiling instead of flabby and frowning.  66-year-old actress Helen Mirren was voted “Best Body of the Year” in an L.A. Fitness poll, beating out contenders like Jennifer Lopez and Elle Macpherson, and according to Shape, she gives credit to “regular walks with her dog and playing on the Wii Fit”.

Even though the sexygenarian actress was hot long before video game consoles were even marketed, and she’s also a paid celebrity endorser (see video above) – good for her!  I don’t have Wii Fit, but there are lots of great Wii fitness choices out there for all ages.

Uncle Sam wants DDR to get Navy into ship shape

With DDR torching fat off moms and kids across the nation, the Navy is interested in turning its boot camps into boot-stomping camps!  According to the Navy Times, the tech-savvy Navy Surgeon General Vice Admiral Adam Robinson wants to incorporate exergames like DDR and Wii Fit into physical training programs for recruits, for much the same reason they are being used in schools:  because recruits aren’t as physically fit as they used to be, in large part because of all the time they spend in front of computers.  So giving them something they enjoy, a “gateway” activity, will build their endurance and strength to tackle more traditional exercises.  (Maybe the Wii rowing machine can be put to good use here.)

The article notes that many female recruits are suffering bone fractures, due to not being used to running or even standing for long periods.  DDR is just the ticket for that, with all its high-impact jumping and running.  Playing doubles will help develop amazing flexibility and agility as well.

I salute the Navy from my dance pad for their forward thinking!  If they want to save Uncle Sam a few dollars and buy games off the shelf, may I suggest DDRMAX2 for PS2 which contains a remix of, what else, “In The Navy”.

Pro athletes and trainers put five Wii workout games to the test

In an article in today’s Boston Globe, five Wii games – Your Shape, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010, Wii Fit Plus, The Biggest Loser and EA Sports Active – were tested by three trainers, a pro soccer player and a pro hockey player.

Your Shape, which has recently been discounted to $20 at Amazon (at that price, even I’m tempted) and Biggest Loser got fairly high marks for being effective and entertaining.  The ex-Army trainer who took Jillian for a spin thought she made his drill sergeant seem nice, and EAS Active kind of brought up the rear, due to – perhaps a little unfairly – being thought of as too easy.

This would be good reading for someone looking for a comparison of Wii workouts.  Plus, there’s a fun, ESPN-ish video accompanying the article:

Wii fitness games are missing an essential piece

Fitness games have gone from being an occasional oddity to a league of their own.  There are over a dozen fitness games for the Wii, and researchers are just beginning to study how they can be used to help people lose weight and improve their health.

These games offer cardio, strength and flexibility exercises, track your workouts, give you rotations, record calories burned and give nutritional advice and motivational tips.  If you have a Wii Fit balance board, you can weigh yourself and (hopefully) watch your avatar slim down along with your real body.  Yet none of these games – so far – offer any online support.

This is a serious flaw, and I can’t understand how they can leave this out of a $40+ game.  Many people have broadband at home, and the Wii console’s Internet capability is one of its best features, something that separates a 21st century machine from a 20th century one.  With an Internet connection, you can get news and weather on your Wii, surf the Web with the free browser, download games, watch game trailers and send messages to other Wii owners.  Many games let you play against others online or download new features and updates, and many gamers nowadays practically expect DLC (downloadable content).

With online capability, fitness games could offer much-needed support to people trying to lose weight or stick with an exercise program.    Wii exergamers could have online workout buddies, get together in groups (over-40, parents, 100+ pounds to lose, etc.), compete in challenges or get advice from fitness pros without stepping off the board or mat.  Support and accountability are essential in keeping exercisers motivated to not only lose weight and become fitter, but keep the weight off and make exercise and healthy eating lifetime habits.  So why don’t the fitness games offer this, even the Nintendo-made ones?  Even the Wii DDR games are offline, unlike their PS2 and Xbox counterparts where you could compete online and download songs.

Nintendo, and game developers, stop treating exergames like it’s 1999.  Put them online.

Real exergaming success stories

Many self-proclaimed experts like to dismiss exergaming as “not real exercise” or “better than nothing at all”, but increasing numbers of real people are proving that to be nonsense.  Pre-Wii, Dance Dance Revolution was one of the first exergames to perk up the eyes and ears of mainstream media around 2005 or so, when arrow stompers serendipitously discovered pounds melting off at near-infomercial speed.  (I was one of them – I lost nearly 60 pounds in less than a year.)  This 2004 article from USA Today tells of some of the young people who lost as much as 100 pounds playing DDR, and here’s a Today Show segment where two DDR “losers” demonstrate the game (DDRMAX2 for PS2) followed by a dance-off between hosts Matt Lauer and Ann Curry:

What They Play, a site that looks at video games from a parent’s and family point of view, began a series of exergaming success stories this month called “The Weight Loss Game”.  One woman lost an incredible 90 pounds playing My Fitness Coach on Wii, and two more women lost 75 pounds and 33 pounds respectively playing Wii Fit and EA Sports Active.

Fitness is about more than just weight loss, of course, and some of the people above who lost more than just points while gaming, used their new strength and confidence to do things like run a 5K, go rock climbing or start support sites for other exergamers.  Congrats to all of you!

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