Can you get in shape sitting on the couch? No. How about by standing in front of it? Quite possibly. That is, if you've joined the Wii fitness craze.  Wii is a Nintendo gaming system with a hand-held remote that senses motion and hundreds of games including many fitness activities like bowling, running and golfing.  Wii Fit is Nintendo's second edition of the popular system.  The new version sells for about $90 and includes sophisticated exercise and fitness tracking software. It uses a balance board to evaluate a player's overall fitness level and interacts as a virtual trainer.  Wii Fit includes yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance games. 

How does it work?  Players begin by creating avatars of themselves, entering details about their age, gender, height, and weight to receive a body mass index (BMI) measurement. They also undergo a series of balancing tests and eventually receive their Wii Fit age. The bigger the gap between their actual age and their Wii Fit age, the less in shape they are.  Players are able to participate in virtual sports while their exertion and skill levels are measured via the balance board and remote.  The avatar trainer "virtually" challenges them, motivating them through a variety of fitness programs. 

Why do we need Wii Fit?  Because we're already logging so much computer time, we might as well get some good out of it.  American children spend approximately 6.5 hours per day on televisions, computers or video games.  That's after an average 6-7 hour day sitting in class and another hour or two riding in cars.  They're not playing outside or exercising.  Obesity is a serious health complication caused by sedentary lifestyles.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, "childhood obesity . . . starts kids on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol."

Does Wii work?  The American Council of Exercise (ACE) reports that a team of exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program, recruited volunteers to test the potential fitness benefits of playing Wii. Data compiled from all subjects showed that playing Wii Sports increases heart rate, oxygen consumption, perceived exertion, and calories burned.

Bottom line:  It's better than not working out at all.  ACE says, "While they have managed to get traditional gamers off the couch and our results show that Wii Sports offer more of a cardio benefit than sedentary games, we believe there is no substitute for the real sport."  You get more burn with a real baseball bat, golf club, or bowling ball because the weight of the actual equipment causes you to move more. "Even so," ACE says, "Wii can be a suitable workout and a great option for folks who can't find the time or motivation to get out of the house and exercise. For instance, playing 30 minutes of Wii Boxing burns 216 calories, which is 51 calories more than brisk walking, while a 30-minute Wii Tennis match burns a respectable 159."

Can we get fit with Wii Fit?  Yes, but we can get more fit with the original sports.