Wii Fit can be good supplement to regular exercise

“Wii Fit” puts a lot of “wee!” into exercise, but it’s only a first step toward establishing a healthy fitness regimen, according to Jennifer Zeltwanger, a physical education teacher at St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick.

“It can be a lot of fun,” said Zeltwanger, who personally exercised with the wireless video game system several times a week before having a baby in December. “It has little Wii characters that you can make look like you and it talks to you and has the characters dance around.”

Zeltwanger is fond of a Wii Fit running program that has users “run” through a park on their television screens as they are jogging in place in the comfort of their homes.

“It’s basically like playing an active video game,” said the parishioner of the Holy Family Catholic Community in Middletown.

The Nintendo-based Wii Fit comes with a sturdy balance board that helps track a player’s progress. A person’s weight and body mass index can be measured and tracked over time. The Wii Fit system, which costs about $100, can also calculate calories burned in every workout and remind users of the last time they used it.

There are many exercise options on Wii Fit, including yoga, aerobics, running, strength-training and balance games. Some gaming options include boxing and step dancing.

“One of the big advantages is that you don’t have to join a gym or go anywhere for it,” Zeltwanger said. “I think it also provides something that may limit some of the potential for injury because you are right in your own home. If you’re running, you’re not on the road where you could be hit by a car or step on something and turn your ankle.”

Zeltwanger said Wii Fit is ideal for those who are just getting started in a fitness program. She recommended consulting a doctor before attempting Wii Fit or any other form of exercise.

“I would not rely on it as the only thing you do,” Zeltwanger cautioned. “It’s a good way to supplement an exercise program, but I don’t think it provides enough physical activity to be the only thing you do.”

Wii Fit and other video systems can also be useful in consultation with medical professional for those recovering from injuries. To help in physical therapy, Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore uses a system called “Cybex Trazer” that Mercy physical therapist Kelly Short described as a “full-body Wii.”

Patients use a sensor attached to their belt that allows them to be part of the virtual game. It works for patients of all levels, Short said.

“If I have someone older, they can do simple things and can react in spontaneous ways, and that’s good work for them,” Short said.

Dr. John T. Campbell of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy, said the system is a “nice way to keep patients energized and engaged.”

“Patients love it,” he said. “They’re much more willing to participate in therapy, and there are features of it that let them do a better job.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.