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If you are big into technology, the idea of merging "exercise" and video games is certain to appeal. So when we were looking around for something we could do to promote keeping active during the winter, getting a wii sounded like a perfect fit. Well, that's Brendan's story and he's sticking to it...

So far we haven't actually bitten the bullet and investigated the wii balance board yet (go figure), but we're happy to report that the plain vanilla version is certainly a big improvement over vegging in front of a console (be it for gaming or tv). In the interests of (ahem) fitness research, we've had the opportunity to try out quite a number of different games and here is what we have found...

Games that require actual exercise

  • Wii Sports - this is the default set of games that come with the wii, and they are definitely quite amusing, at least for the first little while. We enjoyed the so-called fitness test, and for a while actually managed to complete one every day until our ages were consistently in the low twenties. Then it got a bit repetitive. We're a bit sceptical about the effectiveness of using Wii Sports to get fit - it's a bit too easy to end up with tennis elbow on one side swinging the remote for most of the games. The exception is Boxing, which encourages the movement of your entire body, including both arms. Luckily, researchers have felt compelled to study whether playing wii sports is as good as getting out there and playing the real thing. The short version? Not exactly, but they concur that boxing isn't a terrible substitute.
  • Dance Dance Revolution (DDR): Hottest party - Okay, so the music is cheesy and we found that there was a serious learning curve but at the higher difficulty levels this is a pretty aerobic workout. The wii version is better for exercise purposes because of the need to move your arms as well. We've found that the "calorie burning" mode is best - it's not so much accuracy that counts but motion, so if you set the calories to burn to something fairly high you'll find yourself participating in a fairly intense workout. Investing in more than one dance pad is also good since exercise is always most fun (and easy to keep up) if you can do it with another person.
  • Rayman Raving Rabids - Although many of the games only require moderate activity, and the toilet plunger first person shooter is not exactly physically intense, the workout section in this game can definitely be used to break a sweat. The sequel, while not as good, is basically more of the same.

Games that couch potatos might call exercise

  • WarioWare: Smooth Moves - Although this doesn't provide an intense workout, it definitely has a few mini-games that require you to move... Hula-hooping is probably the most intense of these. We like to do this with a bunch of people, passing the remote around and requiring you to stand if it is your turn and sit if it is not. The up and down version we play is probably more exercise than the actual game.
  • Playground - Not that we've actually played this one more than a couple of times (a bit too aimed at the elementary age group for us), but the tetherball game is remarkably similar to real-life tetherball. Not that any version of tetherball qualifies as a proper workout...

Games that we wouldn't count as exercise at all

Some of these do require you to move, but the amount of required motion is so minimal that we don't feel they qualify as exercise. Others are just straight video games.
  • Big Brain Academy - Some might say that this is a different form of exercise. We feel that despite the assertion by some that chess is a sport, neither chess nor Big Brain Academy require any athletic activities. It's a pretty fun game though..
  • Batman Lego - A really long, pretty buggy and strangely addictive wandering around shooting / hitting / punching bad guys kind of game. The fact that everything is made of lego is probably most of its charm. What can we say - we're easily amused.
  • Cooking Mama: Cook off - We figure... if you are going to spend time cooking, you might as well actually make something you can eat. Yes, this game makes you chop and otherwise wave your arms around in the air like a fool, but a substitute for exercise it is not.
  • Mario Party 8 - Some of the mini games here require furious action (shaking soda, baseball etc) but since they are interspersed with the board game and are super short any exercise value is mainly anaerobic.
  • Wii Play - By far our favourite game in Wii Play is the tank game. We suppose you could count the ping pong as moderately active, but we figure that you might as well stick to Wii Sports Tennis as the motions required are basically the same and it's much better executed.
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