March 11, 2008

Wii Don't Want to Go Outside

[By Crabby]
I don't get it. Where do you click to make it go in the air?

Here at Cranky Fitness, we're not generally on the cutting edge of hi-tech gaming and entertainment. However, we've come to understand that there are video games now that allow participants to move parts of their bodies while playing (other than the traditional fingers and forearms).

We think that's groovy! (OK, so maybe we're not on the cutting edge of fashionable slang either. We liked the 60's and 70's just fine, thanks.)

Yet it has come to our attention that some people are counting their kids' video game playing as "exercise."

Cranky Fitness thinks THIS IS WRONG.

This isn't to say active video games aren't a fine idea. If your kids are going to sit indoors in a dark room for hours staring at a screen, it's great if they can engage their bodies and not just their brain cells. They can swing their arms and pretend they're playing baseball. They can toss a fake bowling ball down a fake bowling lane without having to rent smelly shoes. They can dance and play football and even keep the world safe from invading aliens while moving around a little--much better than just sitting on their cute little butts in front of a tv screen.

However, unless you've got kids who are handicapped, or, for some odd reason, elderly, I think playing active video games counts as playing video games. It does not count as exercise.

Should a healthy young ten-year-old spend hour after hour wielding a video game controller instead of hour after hour running around outside? Given the trouble we're having with overweight kids, I don't think so.

Perhaps this only seems strange to me because I'm not a parent. Or because I come from an older, crankier generation that was routinely sent outside to amuse itself. And yeah, maybe we broke a few bones, or required a few stitches, or perhaps were escorted home in a squad car (only once, I swear) but whatever. We survived and the only video game we had was Pong. (Which, just for the record, I LOVED).

I think that unless the video screen is mounted in a room so humongous that it allows the kids to actually round the bases after hitting a home run, or makes them run the length of a football field in order to score a touchdown--in my mind the kids are still playing a video game. They're not participating in a sport.

It's like eating a piece of whole wheat coffee cake. Hooray for picking a healthier pastry! But it's still pastry; you don't get to count it as a vegetable.

So yeah, it's true they're getting closer to actual physical activity with new video games like Wii Fit. (Thanks, Bethany!) But damn it, as far as kids are concerned, I think video games should still just count as entertainment, and we should send their asses outside for real exercise.

Like smoking marijuana, or sex parties, or day trading-- there are certain complicated lifestyle choices that are best reserved for adults. Substituting virtual exercise for real exercise seems like one of them to me.

But what do I know? I don't have kids. Plus I've lived in California most of my life, where outside temperatures and inside temperatures are remarkably similar. What do you guys think about kids getting their exercise via videogames?


  1. I refuse to call it exercise irrespective of how it's tarted up.

    Perhaps it's better than nothing, but on the whole, when it's video game versus the real thing, the real thing ought to prevail.

    I don't like the direction our world is taking with video vs reality. Reality is good. Reality is good. Seriously. It's nothing to be scared of.

  2. Imagining the kiddies cooped up indoors with their wiis pretending to play sports, and the fact that my bad wrist is flaring up for some reason, is giving me a horrible thought: kiddie RSIs?

    I know that people who play real sports sometimes get injuries related to the body part that their sport uses a lot, but given the obsessive way that a lot of kids treat their video games... how pathetic would it be to give yourself tennis elbow without ever picking up a racket?

  3. duly noted.
    do not let toddler host sex toy soiree.

    how sad? odd? weird? is it that Ive never even seen the thing.

    I guess that says alot---but not in an anti video game way just that I need to hip myself up a smidge.

    with that disclaimer I wonder if it might not work really well to get kids who see themselves as not athletic interested in pursuing athletics OFF the couch when their confidence is built up ON?


  4. Hear, hear, Crabby! How ridiculous to consider video games as exercise! The Bag Lady is not acquainted with Wii, but she saw someone playing virtual golf (like golf itself isn't boring enough - can you imagine playing it without the fresh air and WALKING?!) It did not qualify as exercise, in her mind...

  5. We had friends visit from out of town and they brought their Wii with them. So we got to play it for a weekend, and it was reeeeeallly fun. The best part was, My two older boys (and by older I mean 6 and 4) could play my husband and I in doubles tennis and WIN. It was cool to play something where we could all have "equal" footing, my kids loved it. (Just an opinion, but I think the writers of Cranky Fitness would like it very much if they could try it)

    That said, I TOTALLY agree with the exercise thing. If we do ever get a Wii (which I kind of think we won't) but if we do, it'll be nicer than a regular gaming system. But that won't keep me from kicking their little butts outside to play on the swingset and ride their bikes everyday that weather permits.The only time where I could foresee us using in as an exercise thing is in the dead of winter, if we're sick of sledding and have cabin fever. It would've been nice this last winter...

  6. I agree with you with one exception:

    Dance Dance Revolution.

    Throw your kids on that for an hour and they'll have gotten much better cardiovascular exercise jumping up and down to "Love at First Sight" than they ever would playing tag outside.

  7. I'm not a video game person, but we have a Wii and I like it. I like that you actually get up and move around, you can even work up a sweat. I was searching around on the internet when we first got ours, and there are people out there who have used the wii to add exercise into their lives and lose weight. Good for them!

    However, I do agree - it should not be the only form of activity that a kid (or adult for that matter) participates in. People need to get out in the fresh air, focus on something other than a TV or monitor, maybe even interact with real live people (though, I have to admit, I'm not much of a people person, so I probably don't take my own advice when it comes to that).

    Bookworm that I was, I survived my Mom shooing me outside to play when I was a kid, and looking back I think it was a good thing.

  8. As much fun as Wii-ing is (and giving every Wii sport into it's own name...Wii-bling, W-olf, W-eenis, etc), it's not exercise. It's swinging your arm around. Is it better than sitting there on your butt, staring at a screen? I guess. But in end, I still think you're better off not burning the calories and sitting down reading a book.

    With, as Towr said, the exception of Dance Dance Revolution. I think some versions of it actually have calorie count and speed calculations, and it's super good for your brain-body coordination.

    There's a fitness center here in Calgary for kids called Bulldog Fitness where they have DDR units and stuff like to get kids moving. You know, sneaky exercise. Whatever works, I guess.

  9. There are a few video games that can really get kids (and adults0 moving. Dance Dance Revolution - it's like cardio dance!

    With anything though, parents need to model good exercise habits outside of video game playing.

  10. Nice message!! Of course I agree. When I got home from school as a kid, I couldn't wait to go out and play! Probably my mom was glad I felt that way! Now the neighborhood parks, for the most part, are empty, and I know kids are missing out on so much. Anyway. I want to put this link to a Calorielab. story that, even though, should be expected, still is shocking to me :-(
    Dr. J

  11. Hi folks--
    Great comments, and I totally appreciate those of you who have actual experience with these games weighing in.

    So I definitely have to try Dance Dance Revolution, though I'm a big klutz and would likely be amusingly awful at it. And I also think the Wii games sound like a lot of fun, especially now that they're incorporating foot thingies as well as hand controllers.

    Sounds like most of you are in the same camp--nothing wrong with a bit of gaming, but kids should also get outside and run around too!

  12. I have seen my kids and their nephew (who is an accomplished athlete) work up a massive sweat while playing the Wii. I don't think it should necessarily replace exercising as much as replace video games where you sit on your butt and move only your thumbs.

    Crabby, you MUST make an opportunity to play this system somewhere. You will be amazed. I am certain that somehow you would be able to write it off as research.

    I agree with Katieo, it does tend to level the playing field between the players which is an advantage for the kids that don't want to play team sports because of the "last player picked" syndrome.

  13. You guys are getting me awfully tempted...Where's a Wii or a Dance Dance Revolution sponsorship when you need one?

  14. I agree that Wii games are not really exercise, but they are fun! They are better, I would say, than sitting on the couch playing Dr. Mario for hours on end, but not as good as going outside to play. Dance Dance Revolution, though, as people have said, is a work-out! I have only played it a few times- I don't spend a whole lot of time in arcades- and I am TERRIBLE at it. And I still work up a sweat pretty efficiently. The little teenage boys who hang out in arcades? They kick some serious ass at that game, with whole routines and stuff, and I would bet they get TONS of exercise. You can get DDR at home, too, I hear, you just need to buy the game and the mat, but I don't have a system to play it on. If you have the right game system, Crabby, you should maybe try and rent the game, you'd be surprised how much fun it is- and what good exercise.

  15. "Like smoking marijuana, or sex parties, or day trading"

    Oh, I can't wait to grow up!

  16. I second the DDR motions! For a couple years, I'd got to arcades for my birthday just so I could play DDR. It's fun and definitely exercise. Occasionally I think about getting a set for home, but honestly I don't know how often I'd use it given how much I exercise already.

    It's funny the discussion about the Wii. I totally agree that it doesn't replace exercise. It can have some benefits for people who are completely sedentary, I suppose. But what I find funny is that I went to a friend's house once and played her Wii, then I took one of the games (milking the cow) and taught it in my muscle sculpting class to work on biceps and cardio.

  17. Shouldn't we call it exercise based on the amount of physical exertion and not where it takes place?

    For example, Nintendo has come up with a Wii Fit exercise "game". How does that differ from their parents watching exercise tapes.

    Whether you have a controller in your hand or not, if you're breaking a sweat it IS the "real thing".

  18. My own kids strongly preferred to be playing outside when they were little, but video games were nothing compared to what they are these days. As teenagers, you can be sure their preference is/was to play computer games. As a parent, it's no longer a matter of MY choice what they do with their time as long as they're staying out of trouble. So far, so good.

  19. Yeah, the study I read said "wii-ing" (how naughty does that sound?!) only burns about 70 calories an hour. That's not even 1 girl scout cookie. I'm assuming they didn't count DDR in there though. Despite not having any gaming system at all, I'm a total DDR addict:)

  20. First off, kids should definitely be playing for exercise.

    But... I do get surprisingly active when I play with the Wii. Of course, I have also nearly dislocated my shoulder several times trying to beat my husband at Wii tennis. :)

  21. Well, apparently it's already been said ... but other than dancing, I have to agree with you Cranky. I don't even have a Wii; I have a PS2, and my son tends to hang on it as much as I do (and neither one of us should). I can be thankful for one thing, at least: during the summer, as long as there are other kids outside, going outside becaomes much more important than playing video!

  22. We are Wii-less here, but we do have a very retro PlayStation2. A couple of years ago, my husband bought me a video game for the PlayStation called "Yourself Fitness." It was basically an animated instructor leading you through an exercise routine -- you could choose your music style, your location and your level. I thought I'd like it, but it was downright creepy ("You're doing great," the little computer instructor would tell me. How the hell did she know?). My daughter likes to play it from time to time.

    I'm not a huge fan of video games and I don't think they replace exercise, but I will say this: when my son plays, he gets so into it that he jumps up and down (literally) and he's one of the skinniest kids I've ever seen. He does play sports, too (basketball, football and baseball and he swims, too). My cardinal rule for video game playing is this: if your friends come to the door and ask you to come outside to play and you say no because you'd rather sit inside alone and play video games, you're done.

    We don't have DDR, but I've seen it played and I have to agree with the crowd here: I think that counts as exercise.

  23. I know you can work up a sweat playing dance dance revolution (or maybe it's just me *ahem*), but it's still no substitute for getting outside and playing. Thw Wii can give you a bit of a muscle workout, but nothig to get excited about compared to good old fashioned running around.
    My Mum used to kick us outside and I'm glad she did.

  24. THIS was in my local paper today. I have seen this use for the Wii before.

  25. I'm only 24 yet I was only allowed an hour of Nintendo OR t.v. a day. And it really wasn't a problem...all summers long I spent rollerblading, bike riding, swimming, jumping on the tramp, walking around the neighborhood...

    I was still fat because my family ate really unhealthy food, but I learned to love exercise and appreciate being outdoors. I wish kids in the next generation will be able to do the same. I have a feeling I'll be a pretty strict parent when it comes to that sort of thing.

  26. Wii as exercise for kids--downright silly. They are supposed to run and play.

    Holly, thanks for the great link. Wii as an exercise for stroke victims and other seniors makes a great deal more sense.


  27. I have to agree with you. My time on 'Super Mario Brothers' was definitely limited by the video game police (Mom and Dad) and I don't see why this generation should have their own video game police. =)

    Have you seen the exercycle they have for TODDLERS now? Way to go Fisher Price! Holy crap.....

  28. I must agree that I can't imagine video games replacing proper exercise. I have seen DDR on TV and can imagine it works up quite a sweat, but I still think kids need fresh air and play time.

  29. outside, outside!! Make them play outside. Yesterday, it was 60 degrees in Denver, and it was the first real day of Daylight Savings time. I rushed home, excited to walk my dog when it was still light out. On my entire 45 minute walk, I saw ONE kid outside. He was sitting on his front steps playing with some sort of Gameboy. ARRRGGH! Seriously.

  30. ["do not let toddler host sex toy soiree."
    This brings back second-hand memories (I wasn't there) of long long ago, when one of my friends was hosting a party for her husband's business colleagues, and her then-toddler brought her vibrator out and put it on the coffee table. ]

    My recent experience of trying to exercise by walking back and forth in the house, so that I'm still in earshot of my 95 yo father, strongly reinforces my instinct that Real Exercise takes place outdoors. This in spite of how much I miss the gym.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  31. Wow, I'm REALLY going to have check out this DDR thang.

    Holly, great link!

    MaryAnne, that's too funny.

    And Cara, that's too sad!

    And thanks everyone for your awesome comments, you guys totally crack me up.


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