ACE is less whelmed by balance-boarding than by arrow-stomping

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) just announced the results of a university study of Wii Fit, and some game sites are crowing that ACE found the popular exergame “underwhelming” when it comes to calorie burn.

When played for 30 minutes, Wii Fit’s Free Run and Island Run burned an average of 165 calories–the most out of the six activities tested–and yielded the highest energy expenditures. Rhythm Boxing expended an average of 114 calories, followed by Super Hula Hoop, Advanced Step and Free Step at 111, 108 and 99 calories, respectively. In all instances, researchers found that performing the actual activity as opposed to the virtual has a significantly higher caloric expenditure. This is especially evident with conventional step aerobics, which burns almost 12 calories per minute by typically stepping up onto a six-inch high bench, verses Wii Fit’s Free Step and Advanced Step, which burn much less by stepping up onto the one- or one-and-a-half-inch balance pad provided. Similarly, its Rhythm Boxing activity burns just one third of the calories per minute of traditional boxing.

Never mind that Wii Fit players may be gaining strength, improved balance, flexibility or heaven forbid, are having fun exercising – apparently at the ACE, calories are all that count.  Incidentally, there has been a flurry of articles lately about how exercise has been oversold as a weight-loss tool.  This article in the New York Times cites a couple of studies where subjects lost less weight than one would expect from just an exercise program (hey, the fact they lost anything at all puts them way ahead of many an average American) and contrary to popular belief, the “afterburn” effect of burning more calories during the rest of your workout day is pretty much non-existent.

So exercise is a waste of time if it doesn’t blast away your buns and put you in skinny jeans by Friday?  Not necessarily, as the article points out:

Perhaps just as important, bear in mind that exercise has benefits beyond weight reduction. In the study of obese people who took up exercise, most became notably healthier, increasing their aerobic capacity, decreasing their blood pressure and resting heart rates, and, the authors write, achieving “an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood,” leading the authors to conclude that, “significant and meaningful health benefits can be achieved even in the presence of lower than expected exercise-induced weight loss.”

Let’s hope that readers actually saw that part instead of clicking away in disgust after reading that exercise may not be the magic weight-loss pill.

Back to ACE, they also studied an exergame called Dancetown which is basically DDR adapted for old folks, with easier steps and classics like “Locomotion” in place of thrash electronica.  ACE found that stepping to Dancetown burned more calories per half-hour (136 on average) than all but the most intense of Wii Fit activities, Free Run and Island Run.

Exergaming gets a lot of flack for not being a six-pack-in-a-box, and one of the most simplistic knee-jerk criticisms is “go outside”.  Well, looking out my window at a cold rainy day, if you gave me a choice right now between the dance pad, a treadmill or the outdoors, I know which one I’m picking.  Your choice may be different, but (in my nonexpert opinion) it’s all good.


Posted on November 11, 2009, in Exergames in the news, Exergaming, Just sayin', Weight loss and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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