Motion control debunked as fitness aid

Tuesday, 4 January 2011 21:32 GMT By Brenna Hillier

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A series of studies has demonstrated that no matter how hard you waggle your Wiimote, you’re unlikely to reach the moderate activity level required to increase your health and fitness.

Utah State University’s Professor of Health, Dale Wagner, told the Standard-Examiner the consensus among researches is that fitness games are largely ineffective.

“The interactive video games increase heart rate and energy expenditure compared to sedentary computer games,” he said. “However, the increase in heart rate with these games corresponds to only light to moderate intensity.”

In exercise terms, “moderate intensity” – the activity level required to improve cardiovascular fitness – corresponds to heart reates above 60 percent. On average, fitness games manage between 40 percent and sixty percent.

Motion control may not have transformed an entire demographic into über-fit titans of the exercise world, but it has proved a valuable tool in physical therapy for patients with upper-extremity injuries and disabilities. The University Orthopedic Center in Salt Lake City has utilised Wii games as physical therapy for two years. Physical therapist Patty Trela says the Wii gets results unobtainable with standard hospital kit.

“The one thing I like is that the Wii … it can detect changes in body movements and body-positioning orientations – kind of a three-dimensional picture,” she said. “We really don’t have that in any of the tools in the clinic.”

The basic exercises used to rehabilitate the body can be dull, but Trela notes that the Wii helps motivate patients. “It’s pretty boring, especially for those people who really don’t like exercising. So this gives us a way to make exercise fun.”

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