Confession: I’ve been anti-video games in the past. Mainly because every ex boyfriend I ever had was overly obsessed with playing video games, and frankly in my opinion, nothing could come close to touching the awesomeness that was Super Mario Land 3 on the original Nintendo anyway(remember that flying raccoon tail? Epic.) But most of all, my disdain for the gaming world was its contribution to the lack of inactivity in our society’s youth…and adults (like my ex’s). But then the original Wii debuted, and the requirement to actually stand and move your body while you played appealed to me. We got a Wii, and it was all fun and games until one day I accidentally hit my then 2 year old in the face with the controller during a match point serve of a virtual tennis game with my sister. Tears were shed (by me and my sister, the toddler was fine), and that was pretty much the end of my short video game streak.
This past Christmas, however, my boys were given Nintendo DS’s. I was absolutely thrilled to see that Nintendo had incorporated a feature where, in order to earn points and extra coins, the boys had to run around holding the game system. I’m not talking about their characters on the video screen, I mean the boys literally had to run up and down the hallway or across the backyard, clutching the DS in their little hands, earning points based on the number of steps they took. Again, this was all fun and games until they realized that I could run faster and further than they could, and they began begging me to run around the backyard clutching the DS in my big kid hands. (OK, it was still fun). I truly appreciated the fact that Nintendo had found a way to get kids moving, even while playing video games, to prevent long streaks of unnecessary inactivity. But playing active video games isn’t, and shouldn’t, be the only form of exercise for anyone, kids or adults alike.
I never imagined that on this little running blog I would review a video game product. Blasphemy. Or so I thought. Until I received an email from Nintendo, asking me if I’d review their new Wii U Fit Meter. Intrigued, I dug a little deeper. Advertised as a feature of the Wii Fit U , the Fit Meter allows you to take your workouts outside (yaaay outside!), while tracking your steps taken, as well as the intensity and altitude of the steps, to provide an accurate overview of your day’s activities. The exercise science numbers geek in me was sold, I told Nintendo I’d be happy to review the Fit Meter.
WHAT IS IT:
The Nintendo Wii U Fit Meter is essentially a pedometer, crossed with an accelerometer, that closely resembles a Tamagotchi (those digital keychain pets from the 90’s). In addition to counting steps like a pedometer, the Fit Meter also has an acceleration sensor (to measure intensity) and an atmospheric pressure sensor (to measure altitude changes) to help measure daily activity as well as estimated caloric burn.
– Nintendo Wii Fit U program (initial one month trial period is free, and from what I gather but still can’t wrap my mind around, has over 70 interactive, physical games and even personal training. If you purchase the Fit Meter , you can keep the game permanently at no extra cost.)
HOW IT WORKS:
The Fit Meter is designed to sync with Wii Fit U, a program designed for the new Wii U. There are countless uses of the Wii Fit U program that range from fun, interactive games, to personal training, to yoga, to dance, to strength training, to balance, and so much more. There is even a virtual gym where you can connect with other Wii Fit U users across the globe. Since this review is focused on the Wii U Fit Meter itself, I’ll stick to the basics. (Also, being a 31 year old female and not a too-smart-for-my-own-good pre-teen, I’m still kind of overwhelmed by all that the Wii U gaming system itself has to offer, so I’m not even going to attempt to dive into those details. )
After setting up a profile in the Wii U Fit program, you sync your Fit Meter to the Wii U. More than one Fit Meter can be synced to the Wii U, so the entire family can get involved (apparently, they even have a profile for pets, so you can stick on on Fido’s collar.) Once synced, all of your data, including your “Mii” character, show up on the screen of the Fit Meter. You then wear the Fit Meter on the waistband of your pants, as you would a pedometer, to track your activity throughout the day.
At the end of the day (or whenever you decide to check in), you can wirelessly sync the Fit Meter with the Wii U gaming system.
From this point, there are a number of things you can do. You can analyze your data, which will show you your activity levels througout the day, in metabolic equivalents (METS). The display shows resting periods, light activity, walking, running, and even ascending and descending periods. In the first example below, you can see my 11 mile long run from Sunday afternoon. In the second screenshot, you can see from 2:00-3:00 pm I was on the computer, from slightly after 3:00 on I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical. The green line right around 3:00 pm shows where I walked down the stairs of my apartment complex, the yellow line shortly after the exercise (red) ends shows me ascending the stairs once again.
Now here is where the fun stuff comes in…there are fitness challenges that you can update everyday based upon your activity. Distance challenges as well as elevation challenges of landmarks and cities across the world. Can you guess which one I picked?
This is actually a much harder task than I imagined, as hiking season is over (in my mind at least, I’m a pansy in the cold weather), so other than walking up and down the stairs of the apartment, and the occasional hill in my recent, relatively flat, runs…I haven’t climbed much. When you enter your data, the Wii will cheer you on (or in my case with the climbing lately, give me some sort of lame “slow and steady wins the race, you’ll get there eventually!” pep talk) and also provide a fun fact, like “the distance you climbed today is the equivalent of 25 Emperor penguins stacked on top of each other!” (who knew?).
WHAT I THINK:
Like any sort of activity measuring instrument, the Wii U Fit Meter certainly makes you more aware of your daily activity, and probably more importantly, your inactivity. But how accurate it is?
Distance Accuracy: There is no way (that I’ve been able to figure out) to calibrate your stride length. Thus, the distances aren’t entirely accurate. For example, last Sunday, in addition to my daily chores around the apartment, grocery shopping, visiting family, etc, I ran an 11 mile workout, calculated by GPS and Google Maps (thus, I’m 99% certain the 11 miles were accurate). At the end of the day, the Fit Meter told me I had walked a total of 10.7 miles all day, clearly an underestimate. I’ve noticed for me, the Fit Meter seems to always under estimate the distance I’ve covered for the day, though the exact step count is always within a very close range of the Body Media FIT band that I’ve been simultaneously wearing for comparison purposes. The discrepancy in distance is most likely due to stride length. That said, the underestimate is never significantly off, so it is still a good general estimate of your daily activity.
Caloric Expenditure Accuracy: I have no idea what’s going on with caloric estimates. Yesterday, according to the Fit Meter, I covered a total of 7378 steps and burned 288 calories. Geoff’s Fit Meter said he covered 5581 steps and burned 1055 calories. Sure, Geoff is a) male, and b) has about 55 lbs on me, meaning that in theory his body burns far more calories than mine in similar activities (both weight, height, age, and gender are added to your profile), but that is a massive discrepancy in caloric expenditure. I would not use this device to accurately calculate my daily caloric expenditure. Further, while we are on the topic, every single human being is going to have a different metabolic rate, meaning that the simple act of walking may burn more or less calories for you than your friend of the exact same age, sex, weight, height, etc. Short of testing in a lab, no product on the market is going to give you an exact measurement. So be sure to never hold those numbers on your heart rate monitor (etc) in stone.
Activity Measurement: It is neat to have a visual display of exactly when I spend my time exercising, when I’m generally active, and when I’m sitting on my butt (most likely, typing away on this computer). The Wii Fit U program does a great job of putting all of the activity statistics into an easy to understand graph, sadly making me more aware of the fact that I do not get up enough throughout the day.
Cost: This is the tricky one. If you already own the Wii U gaming system (around $260 MSRP), and the Wii Fit Plus balance board (around $79 MSRP) then I would absolutely recommend spending another $19.99 (MSRP) for the Fit Meter. Especially considering that with the Fit Meter, you can download, for free, the Wii Fit U program and all of the games that come with it. If you are a video game aficionado, have kids in the house, or any other reason the Wii may be of more use than simply the Fit Meter, then by all means, this is a really fun product to own. If your sole purpose in purchasing the entire bundle is for weight loss purposes…I’d really weigh your options against alternatives, such as a gym membership.
This is definitely a case of “to each their own”. I have not gone into great depth with the Wii U Fit system, so it is very hard for me to imagine I can get the same workouts from a video game as I would in a gym. That said, I am also a gym rat, and I do realize that some people truly do prefer working out in the comfort of their own home, in which case, this is certainly a much more fun, more versatile way to exercise than say, a single workout DVD.
All of that said: if you have the balance board and a Wii U already, do not hesitate to get the Fit Meter. It really is a fun little gadget.
Motivation & Accountability: I’m at athlete and a fitness professional. I love working out; you don’t need to tell me twice to get my daily exercise in. Yet I still find this silly little game of virtually hiking Everest and walking the perimeter of Hawaii incredibly motivating. What’s more, Geoff spends the day on his feet at work with his Fit Meter, so now I find myself trying to sneak extra steps in here and there to try and keep up with him in our mini competition.
I absolutely believe that anything that will encourage people to get up, be active, and get moving, is a good thing. I don’t care if it is a medal at the end of a 5K, the desire to drop your LDL cholesterol numbers, or simply wanting to finally reach the summit of Mount Everest on a Nintendo game. All healthy movement is good healthy movement. Further, with childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, I love to see anything that promotes fitness to our youth as fun, and not something we dread or punish ourselves with. So Nintendo, you have my seal of approval. While I would never recommend that people use a video game as their sole source of fitness, it certainly is a fun and different way to supplement your daily activity, and a way to work on your fitness in the comfort of your home. I appreciate that the Fit Meter encourages people to continue their daily exercise and activity, even when the Nintendo and the TV screen are turned off.
Questions about the Wii U Fit Meter?
Thoughts on video games as a form of exercise?
Disclaimer: Nintendo provided me with the Wii U gaming system and Wii U Fit Meter for review purposes at no charge. However as always, all opinions expressed are honest and my own.