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Meet My Personal Trainer, Mario

DiscoblogBy Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)February 15, 2007 10:15 AM


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Nintendo's new Wii game system—and particularly its "Wii-mote"—has drawn raves from video game junkies for being one of the rare visionary leaps forward in gaming. (The Wii-mote, for those not in the know, is the first major motion-sensing video game controller—you swing, stab, and whirl the thing around to control the action.) Now some fans are suggesting the device has another benefit: it might help today’s couch-potato kids get off their butts and actually move! Having played the Wii some myself, I can tell you it’s not exactly a trip to the gym, but even the lifelong video game-phobe in me grudgingly admits, there may be a wee bit of truth to the Wii praise.

I've played a fair amount Wii tennis with my teenage cousins, and I was surprised to find that it really is different than the conventional, thumb-twitcher video games. While smacking aces and winners with the Wii, I get many of the same pleasing, energized feeling I get from real sports, except I'm actually better in Nintendo tennis. Wii gaming may not reverse the obesity epidemic overnight (energy-saving flicks of the wrist too often earn better scores than full arm swings), but one dedicated gamer reports he lost 9 lbs in six weeks just by playing Wii sports "aggressively" for half an hour each day. And, as you might expect, it was more fun than your average run-and-eat-sprouts approach.

Once Nintendo fully capitalizes on the Wii’s potential to make exercise fun, I think we can expect to see more advanced motion sensing technology that encourages kids to throw themselves into the game and reap the emotional and health benefits of physical activity. For now, those looking for a video game to help them lose weight should probably put their money into Dance Dance Revolution, a game that forces you to move your feet and has been installed in hundreds of school gyms to get sedentary kids to bust a move.

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