Wii Fit – it’s a good workout

IF YOU think you look daft gyrating with one of those waist-trimming hula hoops, imagine how crazy you’ll look doing it without the hoop.

Or skiing without the skis. And when you start heading balls without a ball, onlookers could suspect that executive stress has finally pushed you to burnout point.

Technology importers the Core Group hope thousands will ignore any such character assassinations and buy Wii Fit, the latest version of the hyperactive Wii gaming device. You can play it at home or in the office, giving yourself a workout by standing on a balance board and interacting with the TV screen.

So far, Core has sold only about 30000 of Nintendo’s Wii devices for R3600 each. The Wii Fit balance board costs another R1000, and an initial batch of 8000 has been imported.

It should appeal to people already addicted to the Wii as well as reach a new audience, Core’s brand manager Kerry Taoshiani says. “It really is based on fun. You don’t feel you have done any exercise until the next day when your muscles are aching,” Taoshiani says.

“Internationally, the Wii is very well known, but South Africans don’t know what it is. We are doing a promotion in the shops and the minute people interact with the product they realise its not about being a couch potato any more.

“This isn’t about hard-core computer gamers sitting in a dark room shooting people. This is about the entire family interacting with the console.”

In Japan, the Wii Fit was launched in December and 1,8 million units have been sold. It will launch in SA and Europe today, with the US receiving it later. That might be because it needs special adapting for super-sized Americans, Taoshiani says. The standard balance board can take the strain of people weighing up to 150kg, but the US version will be industrially strengthened to handle people weighing up to 180kg.

The Wii Fit activities and exercises are yoga, aerobics, muscle workouts and balance games. The soccer version sends balls flying towards you on the screen so you duck and bob to head them back. Skiing sees you shifting your weight from left to right, to guide imaginary skis down a slalom.

When users have logged on they enter their weight and height and the console calculates their body mass index (BMI) and uses their weight distribution to calculate the centre of their bodily balance.

There are voice instructions as well as instructions on the screen, so a personal trainer can talk you through the exercises. As your performance improves, more games are unlocked as an incentive to improve your fitness level.

“It’s fun and exercise for everyone,” Core’s GM for gaming devices, Matthew Grose, says. “The idea isn’t to replace the normal gym or running, but it’s about measuring your BMI and setting objectives to improve your fitness and posture.”

Wii Fit was invented by Nintendo’s head designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, whose sedentary working life had seen his weight balloon. Being a technician, he started to record his body changes on a graph, and developed the device to help himself get fit.

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Wii Fit – it’s a good workout