I’ve always believed that video games were best left to the likes of the Zelda and chimp-chasing Donkey Kong. Looking for secret passageways, finding hidden bonus rounds, and leaning back while driving Kappa Troopa to the finish line in Mario Cart were all video-game approved actions. But burning calories while fueling an interactive workout? Not my style. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a self-proclaimed gym rat who loves to chase the burn…but not electronically. Feel the same? Ample evidence now shows that you might want to press play and give Wii fitness another shot. A new review from Michigan State University suggest you pick up the controller … or at least choose interactive games over the boob tube.

According to the review, the games offer light-to-moderate exercise to those who might otherwise be sedentary. In a press release, one of the study authors, Wei Peng, said:

“For those not engaging in real-life exercise, this may be a good step toward this. Eventually the goal is to help them get somewhat active and maybe move to real-life exercise.”

But what about the lasting impact? Unfortunately, Wii might not help with permanent weight loss or provide that much needed, hard to come across, nine-letter word: incentive. Of the 41 active video game study researchers looked at, only three proved to increase physical activity.

“Some people are very enthusiastic about exergames,” Peng said. “They think this will be the perfect solution to solve the problem of sedentary behavior. But it’s not that easy. It’s generally recommended that the average adult get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. Unfortunately, most of the games that were studied provided only light activity, so they were not meeting the recommendations.”

Still, there’s a notion that exergames will be a start in putting your best foot forward—that the fluid swing of that Wii controller will ultimately translate to a smooth backhand in that close 30:40 match out on the courts. Even for those who exercise regularly, mimicking a pass on Madden NFL surpasses slouching on the couch.

Still, I’m not sure if the semi-beneficial nature of exergames is enough to get me hooked. What do you think? Are the slight benefits worth the electronic burn worth plugging in?


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