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We've only had our Nintedo Wii a short amount of time having bought it in April 2010. At the same time, and as part of a package, we bought the Wii Fit Plus which also came with the balance board. I will talk a little bit about the Wii Fit Plus package first and then reflect on the balance board.
Wii Fit Plus is essentially a programme for the Nintendo Wii that aims to help you get fit and lose weight whilst enjoying some fun activities at the same time. The first time that you use it, you will need to use the balance board to determine weight and BMI which can be a little bit scary but then it's best to know what you are up against. You also need to programme your details and then you get your own page that shows various different graphs so that you can track how well you are doing. I find this is very informative and do try to take the body test most days just to see where I am. You can also set a target weight and determine how many weeks you want to take to achieve it. If you are not on target the Fit Plus lets you know and it almost acts like your conscience whispering in your ear!
Everyone using the Fit Plus can create their own mii which is a little figure that might resemble what they look like. It's quite surprising the way that the ones that I, my husband and our daughters have chosen all look quite like us!
Everytime that you go back on the programme you click on your mii and then you have the choice of taking the body test or just starting with the training. I tend to always opt for the body test first. After telling the wii how heavy your clothes are you have to stand very still on the balance board while readings are taken of your weight, BMI and your centre of gravity. As soon as that is done you do get an immediate reading – but do be warned as your weight can go up as well as hopefully coming down. Whichever way it has gone, the Fit Plus lets you know and what the damage is! Therefore, sometimes the body test can be a joyful experience whereas at other times it is definitely not!
After the body test there is the training. There are five different training areas which ase Yoga, Muscle workouts, Aerobic exercises. Balance Games and Training Plus. I believe that the training plus area includes everything that has been added to the original Wii Fit, but not having one of those I can't say for sure. Within the training areas there are various activities to choose from all requiring a variety of skills and testing different muscles. They are quite different and we all tend to have our different favourites.
I always go to the aerobic area first where you can hula hoop, rhythm box, step or jog. Apart from the jogging, these all require the balance board. You interact with the screen and you can always see your mii in the picture. I like the way that I get instant feedback about the way I am doing which makes this so much better than an ordinary fitness DVD. My favourite in this area are the step exercises of which there are two levels. However, I wish that there were more and although there are some variation of steps I don't think there are enough. Also the longer programme is only five minutes and I do feel I could do with something longer. There is always free step which you can do while the TV is on but this is literally just stepping on and off the board which is ever so slightly boring!
The next area is Balance and there are nine activities to choose from. As you might expect these are a lot less energetic than the aerobic activities but help you think about balance. Activities includi ski slalom, ski jumping, heading footballs, a penguin slide and walking the tightrope. They are all quite fun and there are often both beginner and advanced levels. Again you get feedback and scores depending on how well you have completed the activity – or not!
I have never done Yoga before but I do find that I like the yoga activities. You need to have very good balance and on screen you can see immediately how well you are retaining your centre of gravity. For the Yoga and the Muscle workouts you get a personal on screen trainer who demonstrates and then you have to copy what they are doing. They also tend to give quite a few words of encouragement.
The final area is Training Plus where fifteen additional activities are included. They tend to be only the aerobic and balance activities but there is quite a variety. I especially like the obstacle course and Rhythm Kung Fu. My daughters tend to like the cycling. There are also one or two very funny ones such as Bird's eye- bull's eye where you have to flap your arms up and down just like a bird flying!
I think that most of the activities are very good although like most things they do become abit tedious after a while. I seem to have spates when I go on it most days for a couple of weeks and then leave it alone for a while. I am always motivated by the graphs and I love the feedback that I receive after each activity especially seeing the amount of calories that I have burned (although I'm never sure just how accurate these are!). I am also quite a competitive person as well even if I am only competing against myself. That is why I like the fact that for all of the activities there are leader boards and I especially like getting ahead of my husband's scores!
All of our family enjoy the Wii Fit Plus activities and I am convinced that when I use it regularly, combined with other exercise, it really does contribute to my weight loss. My young daughters love doing things on it too as well as watching us! I am concerned that they don't start thinking that they should be losing weight though but just that they should enjoy the activities. In fact they rarely bother with the body test at all which I am pleased about.
Now onto the board which is a white rectangle that you stand on whilst doing the Wii fit activities, and is also compatible with quite a few other Wii games. I'm not sure how it works from a technical point of view, but the main advantage for me is that it helps to provide accurate feedback about weight, calories burned, BMI, and all sorts of other useful information if you are trying to keep an eye on your weight. For this purpose, I find that it is generally pretty accurate although occasionally it does have a blip and will tell me that I have done something astonishing like losing six pounds in weight overnight! It does tend to correct itself the next day though and I think it is very useful for keeping track of your weight trends, especially as this is shown on graphs on the Wii Fit programme.
Its main use is in conjunction with the Wii Fit games and in fact you could not do the games without a balance board. These games involve all sorts of different activities such as stepping and walking, jumping, leaning and holding poses in yoga. The board sends messages to the main programme which then enables you to get feedback on how well you have completed the activity in question. I love getting this feedback and the potential to know this through the balance board makes using the Wii for fitness much more attractive than conventional fitness DVDs.
If you use the balance board a lot though it is a drain on batteries so it is definitely worth investing in a balance board power pack which will cost about £12.99 on Amazon (September 2010). This means that you don't need to keep replacing batteries and if you get into the habit of charging over night you will always have enough power. I have once or twice found myself in the frustrating position of being half way through an activity and the battery running out! Our battery charger came in a Wii Fit Pro Pack (also part of our package) which included things like sports socks and a silicon cover for the board. This seems to reduce the chances of slipping and actually makes the board feel a bit more comfortable to the feet.
Also, if you use the silicon cover you reduce the chance of two likely problems that I have encountered. Firstly (and I'm sorry if this is too much information) my feet tend to get very sweaty when I exercise. I find that if they get too sweaty the board does not always register my movements accurately. I particularly find this on the Wii Fit obstacle course which involves a lot of jumping movements. If I am too sweaty I make the movements but my mii does not jump and I get knocked off! The other problem tends to be because I exercise in bare feet, the board gets quite dirty. It is relatively easy to clean though by just wiping over with a damp cloth.
There are lots of different accessories you can get for the balance board and one of the things I have is a set of raisers which move the balance board directly off the floor. This is great for doing the step activities as it does help to raise the intensity of the workout.
Obviously the greatest use for the balance board is in conjunction with Wii Fit. However, I notice on Amazon that there are more and more games that are compatible with the balance board. One of my favourite games - Step to the Beat (see my review) - uses the board and we have had more use of it through this game than with the Fit Plus. I like to keep an eye out for other games where it is compatible as I always feel that I get more out of using the balance board.
The board is made of sturdy white plastic and is quite small in size ( 20 x 12 inches and only 2 inches off the floor). As it is so compact it makes it quite easy to hide away when it is not in use - ours just lives under the coffee table.
Overall, I think that the Wii balance board is a fabulous innovation which helps make the games fun and more meaningful too as you are able to see the impact of your activity. There are various different packages that you can buy that include the board and I notice that at the moment Amazon are selling the Wii Fit Plus and balance board for £75. I definitely recommend the Wii Fit Plus and balance board. Buying these has really motivated me to exercise and to enjoy myself at the same time!