When a foot injury (and bitterly cold weather) recently sidelined me from my regular running routine, the doctor suggested that I find some low impact exercise to see me through my recovery time. Biking was out, at least for a while, because biking in sub-zero temperatures holds no appeal for me. I was already doing a lot of yoga and pilates as cross training to give my body a break from running, but I get bored if I have to do the same things over and over again. Doing the same pilates and yoga DVD’s every day, without being able to go out and run to break the monotony was likely to make my recovery seem much, much longer.
So, I gave some thought to joining a gym. I thought that maybe some exercise classes and a variety of machines would keep me entertained and in shape while my foot healed. Well, when I found out that a gym membership in my area would cost me about $600 for a year (including enrollment fees), I got serious about finding something else to keep me entertained. I looked into exercise DVD’s but found that, while they were cost effective, most of the ones I rented were either too short to be challenging, boring, or too hard on my injured foot. And, as I noted above, if I have to do the same exercises every day, I tend to get stir crazy. With DVD’s, once I’ve learned and mastered the routine there’s no more challenge. It becomes rote exercise. So I looked for some more alternatives.
We already owned a Wii and the Wii Fit Plus and balance board. I’ve never gotten much of a workout with Wii Fit. It’s fun, but not heart pounding exercise. However, I knew that there were a lot more exercise titles out there that supposedly gave a better workout than the Wii Fit, so I set out to do some research. I found some titles that sounded promising, so I rented them to see how I liked them before shelling out big money. The ones I decided to buy were bought used or paid for with gift cards to reduce my overall price. I spent about $115 on fitness games and some accessories (such as heavy resistance bands) to outfit my new “Wii Gym.” Had I paid retail, I would have shelled out about $224. (Remember, this did not include the purchase of the game console or the Wii Fit because we already owned those.) It was relatively expensive to start up but, unlike a gym membership, I don’t have to renew next year and everything I bought is mine to keep.
I find that I get a decent workout with most of these games and some are actually challenging, especially when done on the “hard” level and with extra resistance. The ones I like the best are EA Sports Active and the sequel, More Workouts. I also like Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout, The Biggest Loser, and My Fitness Coach. The benefit to Wii exercise for me is that there’s a competitive aspect to it that I enjoy. I like trying to beat my past performance and having goals to set and meet. I also like that there are lots of exercises and difficulty levels to choose from. It keeps me much more interested than a DVD which never offers more exercises or harder levels.
Like with any other type of exercise, you get out of Wii exercise it what you put into it. If you do every exercise on “easy” and you cheat by just moving the remote and not doing the exercise, you won’t get the benefits. Likewise, if you just turn it on and work out for ten minutes, you won’t see much benefit, either. You have to commit to putting in the times, challenging yourself, and pushing harder when things get too easy. But you have to do that in a gym, too, if you want to see results.
The bottom line is this: If you already own a Wii, outfitting it with some exercise games and supplies can be a less expensive way to get some exercise than joining a gym. Plus, it’s fun, satisfies the competitive urge, and you can go at your own pace and do it on your own schedule. Is it a substitute for hard core exercise? Probably not. If you want to really build muscle and endurance you’re probably going to have to join a gym, take up running, or start putting in fifty laps in the pool every day. I’m looking forward to the day my doctor clears me to run again because I miss that challenge and, as fun as the Wii is, I know it’s not a substitute for that kind of workout. However, if you’re looking for something to get you started exercising, to use as you recover from an injury, or to supplement a harder routine, exercising on the Wii can fit in nicely to your routine for a lot less money than a gym membership.