Wii: The Best Workout

Sometimes when I am reading gaming or fitness sites and the topic of exercising with the Wii arises, I’ll detect a tone of – at best playful skepticism, and at worst contempt and disgust. The most common argument is that these games are toys, fantasy fitness, as close to real exercise as Guitar Hero is to actually mastering the guitar. The underlying idea being that if you were really serious about fitness, you wouldn’t be screwing around with your Wii. You’d join a gym, play some basketball, go out for a run, etc.

No doubt those are all more efficient ways to lose weight and improve your overall fitness than playing exer-games on the Wii. People improved their health and lost weight long before video games, so clearly the Wii isn’t essential. If you’ve had success with weight loss using efficient and time-tested methods, it is understandable that the Wii would appear to be nothing more than a goofy distraction real fitness.

The Best Workout

There is a phrase used in the world of photography:

“The best camera is the one you have with you.”

This is a succinct way of saying that the most high-end gear in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you miss an opportunity on account of not having it handy. In many cases a basic point-and-shoot or a cell phone can capture a moment just a powerful as one snapped by thousands of dollars of equipment just by being accessible at the right time.

You may own a camera that is superior to your cell phone in every imaginable way. But, if that camera isn’t accessible when you need it, it’s worthless.

I’ve come to a similar point of view on exercise:

“The best workout is the one you want to do.”

You may have access to a gym, or to a basketball court, or to a track. But if you dread going there, or you don’t enjoy that type of exercise, you’re not going to stick with it long enough to make real change. I wouldn’t argue that all three would be superior to working out with the Wii, but for me, right now, they’re essentially worthless.

I feel extremely awkward in gyms. In part because I’m an awkward person. I’m uncoordinated, I make strange noises when I exert myself, and when I breathe in quickly my nose closes up, causing me to pant like a dog. Add to that the fact that I’m currently unhappy with the way my body looks. There you have a perfect storm of self-consciousness.

Organized sports present many of the same pitfalls for me, but add to them rules that I don’t understand. As a kid I would watch ballgames with my family on TV or at the parks. I’d try to follow along. But to be honest, they never made any sense to me. In gym class, the basic rules would always confound me, and I’d end up throwing to someone on the other team, or worse, scoring for them. In little league I didn’t understand what was going on, so I would crouch in the outfield and draw in the dirt, sometimes missing the change in innings.

Running, I could possibly get into. I know it would be good for me, it’s low investment, and doesn’t require being super awkward around lots of people. However I know from past experience that it isn’t something that I enjoy. I could force myself to do it, but I wouldn’t look forward to it. I wouldn’t relish it.

I’ve always preferred being indoors to out. Playing video games to playing sports. Measuring my progress in high score rather than laps.

The Wii gives me a workout I want to do. And for me, that makes it the best work out right now.

I imagine that a lot of people who work out at the gym look forward to it, or at least get some pleasure out of the experience. Those that play sports probably enjoy the camaraderie and competition. And joggers may enjoy the personal challenge and the experience of nature. For them, these are the best work outs.

You could say that if I were to give the gym, sports, or jogging a try I’d eventually overcome my self-consciousness and confusion. There is a learning curve, but having surmounted it I would enjoy myself and look back wondering how I could have ever been so resistant. This may be true. If I put in the effort to overcome my discomfort and learn something new, it may yield great rewards. But on the other hand, I have something right now. Something effective and enjoyable that slots into grooves already worn in my brain.

In time it is possible that I will tire of working out with the Wii. I may seek something more efficient. I may improve my strength and coordination to the point where other activities become more attractive. I may find myself sick of being cooped up indoors. But for now, it gives me a workout that I look forward to doing. And it has me motivated to come back each day.

That’s why for me, right now, the Wii is the best workout.

What’s your best workout?