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Nintendo shows us how Wii can get 'Fit'

  • Story Highlights
  • "Wii Fit" featrures strength training, aerobics, yoga and balance games
  • Game focuses on center of balance to make sure exercises are done right
  • Health experts hope it makes exercise more enticing to non-gym rats
  • "Wii Fit" -- game and balance board -- retails for $90
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By Mallory Simon
CNN
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(CNN) -- If Nintendo has their way your living room could be the new big thing in exercise.

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Personal trainer Robert Dothard said the focus on balance in "Wii Fit" is what makes the workout great.

With its new game "Wii Fit" hitting stores Monday, Nintendo is looking to bring exercise into the home, making people more aware of their bodies and starting to create a comfortable, fun environment to get healthy.

Personal trainer and fitness expert Robert Dothard said making exercise available and enjoyable in your home means reaching an audience of people who often feel embarrassed walking in to a traditional gym.

"I had a real difficult time training people in front of what I called 'God and everybody' -- with the whole gym looking," he said. "If someone is not in good shape you know and they are in the public gym and they're not performing well it's an uncomfortable feeling."

"Wii Fit" which retails for $90, comes with the game and a "balance board" which is used to calculate your Body Mass Index, weight and measure shifts in your balance at the beginning of each session. Users then choose different workouts from the categories of strength training, aerobics, yoga and balance. Each area features different short workouts ranging from a minute to upwards of 10 minutes including push-ups and side planks, skiing, jogging and seeing how many times you can spin Hula Hoops. Video Watch CNN.com try out the "Wii Fit" »

During each game an area is displayed on the screen to show where your core balance should be. A little dot moves around indicating where your actual balance is and the game instructs you to try and do the exercises with the correct balance. iReport.com: 9-year-old goes nuts for Wii fit

It's one of the functions that Dothard, who took the game for a test run, thinks is the most effective and important because it makes you aware of whether you reap the most benefits out of exercising.

While the exercises focus on many different areas and muscle groups, many of the games are short in length and there is no option to select a pre-set workout which strings together several of the games.

"Wii Fit" isn't the first game to attack the market of exercise video games, though it may be the most heavily marketed. Sony and Nike teamed up in 2006 with the "Eye Toy: Kinetic" game which guides you through warm-up, stretching, cardio, conditioning, kickboxing and yoga-type routines. Other smaller companies have tried their hands at exercise games for both personal physical use and specific rehabilitative goals.

When the Wii first came out for Nintendo in 2006, it earned rave reviews from health care professionals for the possibilities of changing rehab activities by making them more fun. But at least one person within the rehab community is criticizing "Wii Fit" for its lack of individual tailoring.

Robert Prunetti, CEO of Performance Health Technologies, oversees his company's rehabilitation products which are tailored for specific injuries by doctors. Prunetti said their products, which track specific measurements of body angles and movements, offer a much more accurate rehabilitation workout than a generic workout game.

Still the game, which has flourished in Japan and in Europe, has received mostly positive praise from those in the health community in the United States before it even hit the shelves.

Video games focusing on health have become such a novelty that researchers have begun serious studies about their impact.

Ben Sawyer is the co-founder of the Games for Health Project, which brings together researchers, game developers and medical professionals to study and find out the best ways technology can help improve health.

Sawyer praises Nintendo for a product which he thinks could propel non-fit people to eventually start going to the gym and making health a priority.

"We need this to be a special form of intervention," he said.

The key, Sawyer says, is not just how many people buy the game, but whether it is embraced by mainstream gyms, after school programs, parents and teachers.

Patricia Gaudreau, supervisor of science, health and physical education for the Montgomery County schools in Virginia, has seen great attempts at weaving similar tools into the curriculum. Gaudreau said teachers have made "Dance Dance Revolution" -- one of the first game titles to attract real national attention to exercise gaming -- apart of the curriculum. She sees "Wii Fit" as a possible classroom tool if schools can get grants for the devices.

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While the hype over "Wii Fit" has gained large momentum including large scale pre-orders since it was first announced, the true test of its success, Sawyer says, is at least a year down the line.

"The question is will we look back at "Wii Fit" and say that was a real seminal moment?" he said. "Or was it just another step in direction of more of the same attempts."

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