News Column

Wii Fit Plus' Balance Board Can Help Your Balancing Act

March Issue

Jeremy Nisen -- Online Editor

Wii Fit Plus' Balance Board Can Help Your Balancing Act

Tech Vault

It's a conundrum that's plagued beleaguered executives and hard-working cubical dwellers for generations. Staying healthy and fit is part and parcel of an energetic performance in the workplace. But when you're working 40, 50, 60+ hours a week in pursuit of a business goal, it's all too easy to neglect your exercise goals. Suddenly, all those hours are less productive.

Mix in other important time commitments, like attending to family obligations, and it's plain to see that trips to the gym or sports club are exceedingly difficult to fit into your schedule.

Here's where the real genius of Nintendo's Wii Fit Plus bundle shines.

The Nintendo Wii is that video game console that's taken the market by storm on the basis of a few key factors that include 1) amazing user interface that features innovative motion-sensing technology; 2) accessible, casual game options; 3) the snappy, mirthful sensibilities that Nintendo products are known for.

The Wii Fit Plus bundle brings these aspects to the next level of interactivity via a balance board and game package that provides a host of activities and exercises, even as it keeps track of calories burned, your weight, and overall fitness levels.

Indeed, a video game console has transcended into a virtual, viable personal trainer, complete with daily health tips, body positioning suggestions, and, yes, nagging when you flake out for a day or two.

The Wii Balance Board is a fascinating piece of hardware that's really the key to all this.

A team of scientists at the University of Melbourne, Australia recently proclaimed the Wii Balance Board to be clinically comparable to lab-grade "force platforms" that cost about $20,000 and are used for rehabilitative purposes. Not only is it more accurate than your bathroom scale, its internal pressure sensors can determine your center of gravity, where you're stepping, which way you are leaning, and more.

The training games take advantage of these capabilities with exercises ranging from those that simply test your balance (like the frustrating-yet-addicting 'Tightrope Walk') to those that monitor aerobic exercise (like 'Island Bicycle', where one must pedal and steer) to those that combine several challenges.

The combinations are the most fun and tend to burn the most energy; my favorites included 'Snowball Fight,' where the Balance Board enables you to take cover, then peek out to throw snowball at opponents via the Wii controller; 'Super Hula-Hoop', in which you literally make pelvic rotations to twirl virtual hoops around your avatar; and 'Obstacle Course,' in which timing, jump motions, and light jogging prove a lot more challenging than you might think.

The elephant in the room: is this as beneficial as hard-core, real-world exercise? Well, it can be. The ability to test your balance is innovative and you can't get that on your own through any other method. The calories burned are of course less per hour than, say, running or swimming. But it's a useful device that doesn't require you to drive someone else, pay a membership fee, or, frankly, even change your clothes if you don't feel like it.

In other words, the Wii Fit Plus bundle is a great tool to fold into your exercise routine. It's slick, fun, and convenient. That time you'll save just may allow you a little more sleep, another very important factor in office productivity. Not to mention it'll make it plausible to get exercise daily while still being able to tuck your kids in at night. (And take in a movie with the new Netflix on Wii service afterward. Convergence is king!)

All this for about $99 (Wii system required).

Source: (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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