Wii Fit May Not Help Families Get Fit

OXFORD, Miss. – The Nintendo Wii Fit many people are considering as Christmas gifts may be great entertainment, but a University of Mississippi study indicates the console has little effect on family fitness.


Jessica Aten, 8, and her brothers routinely jump up and down while playing their Nintendo Wii. The movement involved in Wii games has led a UM researcher to see if the game system improves family fitness.

The study was conducted by Scott Owens, UM associate professor of health and exercise science. When Owens began the study in fall 2008, he wanted to see if the Nintendo Wii Fit video game console could help families get more physical activity. Obesity is a nationwide problem, and Owens is interested in the potential of video games to increase exercise and ultimately improve family fitness.

The six-month study followed eight families in the Oxford area who were loaned a Nintendo Wii Fit to use for three months. The study was broken into two parts so that each family’s physical activity was charted during three months without a Nintendo Wii Fit in the home and three months with the game system in the home.

During that time, each family was evaluated through a number of different fitness measurements, including aerobic fitness, balance and body composition. In addition, each family’s fitness before the study was measured by using an accelerator that charted the families’ movement and physical activity over a period of five days. Software on the game consoles used individual profiles to track how much each family member used the games and how much movement was involved in that use.

Owens’s study, which he has submitted to a refereed professional journal, found that children did display significant increases in aerobic fitness after three months with the Wii Fit. However, three months of home Wii Fit use produced no significant changes in daily physical activity, muscular fitness, flexibility, balance or body composition for families as a whole.

In addition, daily Wii Fit use per household declined by 82 percent, from 22 minute per day during the first six weeks to four minutes per day during the second six weeks, leading Owens to conclude that the Wii Fit had little impact on daily fitness and that that “modest amounts of daily Wii Fit use may have provided insufficient stimulus for fitness changes.”

The consoles for Owens’ study were purchased by the UM School of Applied Sciences. The school supplied the equipment for the study because it is important faculty research that seeks applied solutions to real-world problems, said Marie Barnard, applied sciences assistant dean.

“We are pleased to support research of this nature and continue to seek ways to facilitate faculty research that improves the health and well-being of our community,” she said.

For more information on the study, contact Owens at 662-915-5527 or sgowens@olemiss.edu.

For more information on the School of Applied Sciences, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/applied_sciences.

For more information on the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/hesrm.