The Wii for Kids-at-Heart
By Darcy Nee
Not only are children becoming obsessed with the Nintendo Wii and its plethora of video games, including the Wii Fit program, but also their parents, the medical field and older adults.
Cara Lindell, Kinetic Konnections’ founder, purchased the Nintendo Wii and the Wii Fit program for her two sons last fall. She observed her boys, ages 12 and 17, enjoy the interactive video games, and decided to dive in. An avid exerciser, Cara has been challenged to find quality exercise time as winter set in. She thought, perhaps, the Wii Fit program would help her resolve this issue.
It didn’t turn out exactly as she had thought, for a few reasons.
Cara used the Wii Fit program several times It wasn’t a fit for her for several reasons—time, efficiency and intensity. She allowed 30 minutes of workout time in the morning and discovered that when using the Wii Fit she was only able to accomplish about 15 minutes of moderate intensity workout. The stop and start nature of the short Wii workout segments did not allow Cara to maintain the level of intensity she needed, which was frustrating.
However, Cara did learn that her balance and eye-hand coordination needed improvement. For instance, she had a hard time following the television screen while performing a new movement, as well as following some of the balance skill modules. “I can see if I had more time set aside for exercising I could practice the balance games more to develop that particular skill,” Cara said.
Some of the applications included a mix of cardio, strength and balance. “For me, the visual and motor skills offered by the Wii would be a good tool to help me. Overall, I found it doesn’t offer the challenge in progressions I need.”
Cara said, “The workout included lunges and squats. These are essential exercises for a person who is just starting an exercise routine for the first time. A beginner will find the different exercises beneficial.”
Ruth Helgemo, a Kinetic Konnections’ parent, said despite her positive intentions, she used the Wii Fit program one time and “one time only. I did find that for me, a complete couch potato, it was a pretty good workout,” she said, adding her muscles were sore for several days. “It was a fun way to get me off the couch; if and when I get motivated to get moving, most likely I would use it.”
Ruth enjoyed the challenge of the balance work and would like to try the yoga application, which she hears others rave about. However, she said she would not rely on the program as a specific measurement tool for weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) but as a general marker. “It would be a good non-specific way to watch a trend,” she said.
Job Training Related Benefits
Others are using the Wii for unique applications. The medical field is incorporating the Wii into their exercise toolbox for surgeons. Playing computer games such as the Nintendo Wii can improve a surgeon’s performance in the operating room, according to a U.S. study reported by a 2008 BBC News article. According to the report, eight trainee surgeons were asked to spend an hour playing the games on a console before performing “virtual reality” surgery on a computer system. “Game players scored nearly 50 percent higher on tool control and overall performance than other trainees,” reported the article. The trainee surgeons are from Banner Good Samaritan Medical Centre. As a result, new Wii software is being developed to accurately simulate surgical procedures, reported the article.
Stroke Recovery Benefits
In addition to serving as a “warm-up” for surgeons, the Wii consoles also play a role in various hospitals in the United States and Canada. The consoles help patients recover from strokes and other serious conditions, according to a 2007 article on Softpedia.com. The goal is to help patients build balance, coordination, endurance and upper and lower body strength.
The Wii is also being introduced in various retirement homes across the country, according to a 2007 article on seniorfriendlylibraries.blogspot.com. In fact, players from Erickson Retirement Communities throughout the nation participated in a bowling championship via the Wii, said the article. The Wii enables the group to get some more activity and get them interested in video games.