UPDATE 1: I gathered some of the media appearances I was involved with world wide. You can watch, listen, and read them here.
UPDATE 2: 3 independent studies from California State University, West Virginia, and Liverpool John Moores University have all concluded that the Wii is a viable workout:
“Kids burn 40% more calories”
“Through our testing it is clear that the motion sensor-controlled console can make an impact on a child’s heart rate, energy expenditure and the amount of calories burned”
Six weeks ago (December 3rd, 2006), I began what has become a huge obsession of mine. It is called the “Wii Sports Experiment” (Read my original announcement of this from Early December ’06). I outlined a 6 week game plan for myself, the idea being that I would continue ALL normal activity and eating habits, and simply add 30 minutes of Wii Sports to my day. For the past month and a half, I’ve stuck to these guidelines very strictly.
For those of you not familiar with “Wii Sports”, you can watch a video review of the game and find out what it’s all about, here
I’ve been meticulously keeping track of the following for the past 6 weeks:
- Calories burned per session/per game (via BioTrainer, thanks Nancy!)
- Body fat % (via a Digital Body Fat Caliper and a body fat scale)
- Heart Rate (at rest)
- Wii Fitness Age
- Additional Notes/Soreness
I found out about traineo.com too late into my experiment, but I’ve now started tracking my data on their website. Traineo is a free and simple website that gives you the motivation and support to reach your weight loss and fitness goals. I definitely recommend checking them out.
Before I get into to this, make sure to check out the original announcement of the experiment and read some of the comments, I took most of the suggestions and tips into consideration. I wanted to make sure that I gathered the most honest and accurate data I could.
The day before the experiment I decided to do some training with the Wiimote, enjoy:
Download Quicktime version
For most people this is their most anticipated category. To be honest, I was genuinely surprised by my end results, so I’ll just get right to it. I lost 9lbs! Obviously this doesn’t compare to Jared and the Subway diet, but I started out at a weight that I’ve been at for the past 2 years. My weight has really never fluctuated from 180lbs. in those two years, this makes the weight loss that much more of an accomplishment for me, considering I did not change anything I ate or did. Also, this experiment took place during the holiday season, where I ate holiday dinners like I normally would and drank what I normally would have drank. One last variable I had working against me was the winter season, I did not get any outdoor exercise that I normally would have got in the warmer months. (I do have to admit it has been a mild Philly winter so far)
I was pretty surprised by these shots, In the side shot photos I can see a noticeable reduction in my belly area, upper chest, and my neck/chin area. (and no, my ass didn’t shrink, my pants are bunched up in the “before” photo). In the front facing shots I noticed an obvious visual difference in my body fat. My after picture reveals some abs that were hidden under those 9lbs. of flab. I also see my “love handle” area was reduced, smaller neck, smaller upper chest and better muscle definition. (granted I’m no body builder, but I do see some muscles in there, I think). These pictures were taken using the same lighting, same camera, same time of day, and I tried to stand in the same position. No “sucking in” or “tightening up”, all four shots were taken under the same exact conditions as much as I could control.
Mini Update: I’ve read a few comments from people saying that the forward facing after shot looked “manipulated”. I decided to upload a picture directly from my camera to put those in doubt, at rest. Here is an after photo with no color correction, cropping, contrast adjusting, etc… View it here.
To make sure I kept an accurate reading through out, I bought a professional scale and weighed myself 3 times each day for 6 weeks. I decided that I would weigh-in first thing in the morning, directly after work, and right before bed. I averaged each weigh-in per day and made a graph:
Click image to view it larger
BMI (Body Mass Index):
- Before: 25.2
- After: 24.0
According to the Heart Lung and Blood Institute, my BMI indicated I was overweight before I started and now I’m at a normal BMI. There is one catch though, your BMI is meant to broadly categorize populations for purely statistical purposes. So, its accuracy in relation to actual levels of body fat is easily distorted by such factors as fitness level, muscle mass, bone structure, gender, and ethnicity. So, take these readings with a grain of salt…
On a more obvious note, my waist (around the belly button/gut) went from 34.5″ to 31″.
For my experiment I stuck to four main games and my fitness test (which randomly chooses three games to test your “Fitness Age”). I did calorie experiments for the following, here is what I found after averaging 15 minutes of “aggressive” play during 3 different days.
Mini Update: I just wanted to address a couple of the concerns brought up about calories I burned during my tests. I was using this to measure calories, http://www.biotrainerusa.com. According the instruction manual, it uses a tri-axis accelerometer with a patented super-microprocessor, the BioTrainer is able to measure the inertia of your body’s motion 40-times per second, process the data, and then accurately calculate energy expenditure (in either calories burned or activity units).
I used the BioTrainer three times per game, so I can’t say the results of the burned calories are 100% accurate. I just reported what device measured. For instance, if I kept my waist relatively still (that’s where I attached the BioTrainer) it may not count the calories of my arm motions as accurately as a more advanced heart monitored lab study.
- Tennis: Coming in a close second, Wii Tennis was the runner up in calorie burning activities for Wii Sports. I burned an average of 92 calories during a 15 minute period. Like most of my game playing during the experiment I played each game fairly aggressively and would perform full swings, move left and right, and not take any breaks.
- Bowling: One of my favorite Wii Sports games also clocked in at the lowest of the three games I tested for calorie burn. I burned an average of 77 calories during a 15 minute period. Again, I played aggressively, taken steps toward the lane and bowling with a full swing of the arm. No breaks were taken and I played the game fairly quickly.
- Boxing: The clear winner here. I burned and average of 125 calories during a 15 minute period. I would like to point out that I would punch with full power, move as if I were really dodging, and hoped/bounced around like a real boxer would.
- Baseball: I didn’t get a chance to run the calorie test on baseball, no reason… I was just pressed for time and didn’t get around to it, I love baseball don’t get me wrong.
Here is a compilation of footage I shot throughout the six weeks:
Body Fat %:
For most fitness guru’s and I guess the real question here, was “How much body fat did I lose?” The answer, a fairly significant amount. I took my body fat once a week (sometimes twice) using two methods, one was a Digital Body Fat Caliper and the other a body fat scale. I averaged the readings of the two and here are the results:
- Before: 19%
- After: 17.2%
According to The American Council on Exercise, I went from being in the “acceptable” category to being in the “fitness” category. This data really shows a lot of what I accomplished. I lost almost 2% of my body fat by doing nothing more than playing video games for an extra 30 minutes everyday.
My goal now (after the experiment has ended) is to get to 14% body fat, and I’ll be doing that by continuing my experiment even after it’s over. It’s funny how once you start something that you HAVE to do everyday, you begin to miss it if you don’t do it, even if you find it tiring or unpleasant. (Reminds of the kid in the book “How to eat fried worms” and how he continued to eat worms even after his bet was over.)
To be honest with you I only checked this when I started and when I stopped, so I don’t think the results are as rock solid as some of the others, non-the-less I saw a slight decrease in my resting heart rate.
- Before: 82
- After: 68
Wii Fitness Age:
This really has nothing to with actual fitness, considering a lot of the games score your Wii Fitness Age based on skill more than your fitness or endurance levels, even so I started at a fitness age of 46 and then after that I never went below 30 for the entire six weeks. I hit the lowest Wii Fitness Age on January 4th, with an age of 20.
Some other quick Wii stats: I’m Pro in Tennis with a 1876 score, pro in Bowling with a score of 1345 (high score 257, should be 300, but my dogs got in my way!), pro in boxing with a score of 1120.
I left this area open to just talk about my daily regiment and to address any other issues that may have come up.
One of those issues that has gotten a lot of media attention is something dubbed “Wii elbow“, this seems to occur after your first few sessions of playing Wii Sports. I have to say I was not immune, my first 3-5 days were brutal. I was sore from shoulder to wrist, I even went as far as purchasing an Icy/Hot patch to sooth my pain. I remember sitting at work and just massaging my shoulder for hours, it really made me sore. I suppose this effect occurs when starting any new physical activity outside of your daily routine, so it’s really not an amazing discovery or anything, just a testament to the physical strain Wii Sports actually puts on your body.
Another area grabbing A LOT of media attention is the phenomenon of the “flying Wii remote”, dozens of websites sprung up showing off damages to brand new TV’s, broken remotes, and all sorts of cuts and bruises. I considered most of these accidents to be the fault of the user and I sadly found out I was right. My girlfriend was on the couch behind me using my G4 PowerBook, I was in front of her bowling a decent game in Wii Bowling. I was getting a little too into it when I did a large back swing, came around the laptop and on my forward swing I smashed the laptop monitor with a great deal of force. The monitor’s right hinge snapped off and the monitor went dead. Luckily, the monitor now comes back on, but it’s only supported by the left hinge, which makes for one wobbly laptop. So, the lesson is to take heed of the warnings that are posted before each game of Wii Sports, make sure nobody or nothing is in your striking distance.
I’d like to think that my experiment proves one or two things:
A.) You get back whatever you put into something.
b.) Video games can and are a great way to have exercise and not even know you are burning calories.
To talk a little more about “A”, I feel like a played Wii Sports everyday for 6 weeks in a semi-aggressive way. I moved my feet, I used full body motion, and I swung my arms to mimic the real thing. If you just stand there and make small moves or sit on the couch and play, I don’t think you’ll much if any results regarding exercise.
So, there you have it 21 hours of gaming, with some surprising results (for me). Feel free to ask me any questions or if you’d like to see some raw data.
Discuss this and other video game fitness in our forums, HERE.
7 MONTHS LATER, UPDATE:
It appears that this experiment (and the fans who were inspired to create their own workouts) may have inspired Nintendo to take advantage of the “buzz”. Have a listen:
Reggie Fil-Aime (President of Nintendo of America): “Our objective with Wii Fit is all about expanding the audience and taking advantage of what our consumers are already doing with Wii Sports, they’re using it to workout and lose weight this [Wii Fit] just drives it in a whole new way”
You may or may not have heard that I had a book in the works, I had a terrific literary agent, a great ghost writer and even a publisher! The only thing that stopped the book from going to the presses was the fact that the publisher wanted Nintendo’s “blessing” in order to proceed (not an endorsement or sponsorship, just a letter from Nintendo saying it was OK to do the book).
After about 2 months in Nintendo’s legal department they got back to me with a letter saying they can have nothing to do with book, Nintendo could not even provide a statement saying they would not sue. It was a big blow to all of us, and I can see why Nintendo wants to protect their intellectual property. It just makes me cringe when Reggie Fil-Aime (President of NoA) says that Nintendo’s objective for Wii Fit is to “take advantage of what consumers are already doing with Wii Sports.” It’s almost a direct insult…
They did have a bunch of video of me at E3 on the big screens behind Reggie when they introduced Wii Fit, I guess that will have to suffice:
Never the less, I still love Nintendo and play the Wii/DS everyday, go Nintendo go!
PS. I still have kept all the weight off and be on the look out for the Wii Fit experiment starting April 2008!