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March health notes



Nintendo Wii not for family fitness

Did you get the Nintendo Wii Fit as a holiday gift for your family a few months ago, with the hope that it might spur them to become more physically fit? How’s that working out? If it hasn’t quite lived up to your expectations, don’t be surprised. The Wii may be great entertainment, but a small-but-telling University of Mississippi study indicates the console has little effect on family fitness.

The study was conducted by Scott Owens, UM associate professor of health and exercise science. Owens wanted to see if the Nintendo Wii Fit video game console could help families get more physical activity.

The six-month study followed eight families who were loaned a Nintendo Wii Fit to use for three months. The study was broken into two parts so that each family’s physical activity was also charted during three months without a Nintendo Wii Fit in the home.

Novelty wears off

During that time, each family was evaluated through a number of different fitness measurements, including aerobic fitness, balance and body composition. In addition, each family’s fitness before the study was measured by using an accelerator that charted the families’ movement and physical activity over a period of five days. Software on the game consoles used individual profiles to track how much each family member used the games and how much movement was involved in that use.

While the kids did get more fit while they used the Wii Fit, the novelty of it wore off quickly – along with the amount of use. Daily Wii Fit use per household declined by 82 percent, from 22 minute per day during the first six weeks to four minutes per day during the second six weeks, leading Owens to conclude that the Wii Fit had little impact on daily fitness and that “modest amounts of daily Wii Fit use may have provided insufficient stimulus for fitness changes.”

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting issues and is the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her blog at parenttalktoday.com.