wii fit, wii
Itsuo Inouye/AP
A model demonstrates Nintendo's Wii Fit during a press event by the Japanese manufacturer at
Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007.

University Introduces Wii Fit Class for Credit

September 14, 2009 05:00 PM
by Liz Colville
The University of Houston has created a class for students to earn credit for 20 to 30 minutes a week of Wii Fit, Nintendo’s exercise-specific add-on for the Wii console.

Can Wii Encourage the Lazy?

One of the theories behind the Nintendo Wii is that its sports games, and its fitness-themed spinoff console, the Wii Fit, encourage people to exercise and give those who already enjoy exercise a new twist on an old routine.

The University of Houston has put a lot of faith in this notion, converting a racquetball court on campus into a “video arcade of sorts” featuring 10 Wii stations, NPR reports. This court is the venue for a new class at the school: PEB 4197—Wii Performance.

Though the Wii features sports games, the University of Houston class features only games from the Wii Fit, which include yoga and Pilates “classes.”

“The goal here is that there are people who may be interested in physical activity, but maybe they're not confident enough to join a regular yoga class,” Charles Layne, chairman of the Department of Health and Human Performance at the university, told NPR, “and what we're hoping through the Wii is that this can serve as sort of a gateway class.”

The students’ sessions “can be recorded and logged,” NPR explains. This could help give students the impetus to stick with an activity and watch their progress.

Background: Dance Dance Revolution revolutionizes gym class

The Wii course at the University of Houston is not the first time video games have been used in school. In one 2002 example, a California school employed the fast-paced game Dance Dance Revolution in gym class, CBS reported at the time. The school “has tailored its physical education program to students who would rather play a video game than chase a ball,” CBS’s Tatiana Morales wrote, concluding, “It's fun, effective, and it's probably nothing like any gym class you've ever seen.” One student reported that his Dance Dance Revolution “habit” helped him lose 15 pounds.

Opinion & Analysis: Does the Wii really get the heart pumping?

The Wii Fit console, released in the spring of 2008, costs $90, or about the price of a monthly gym membership; it is sold separately from the Wii console, which costs $250. Games, meanwhile, cost around $20, about the price of a single yoga or Pilates class. But do the Wii Fit games actually provide the kind of guidance or workout that comes from a class taught by a real person, or a jog in the park?

Prior to the release of the Wii Fit, a study conducted at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences in Liverpool, England, tested the ability of the original Wii’s sports games to work up a sweat in young players. “The energy used when playing active Wii Sports games was not of high enough intensity to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children,” concluded lead author Gareth Stratton Ph.D., quoted in a WebMD article on the study.

Reviewing the Wii Fit last year, Robert Crampton of the Times of London said, “I can confirm that you have to make an effort. Not as you would lifting weights or running, but similar to a beginners’ Pilates class, or some semi-serious stretching.”

The verdict: Some exercise is better than no exercise at all.

Related Topic: “Video Games Replace Banks, Gyms, Health Care and Job Training”

Today, video games are being used for a myriad of purposes, not just entertainment or exercise. Earlier this year, Hilton Garden Inn and the military joined the many organizations that use video games for training. Video games are also being used by employers to find recruits, as well as to help those with mental and physical ailments. Real-world banks have also been permitted to legally set up shop in virtual worlds.

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