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Americans, time to warm up for Nintendo's Wii Fit

  • Story Highlights
  • Electronic balance board responds to movement and weight as player exercises
  • Wii Fit selling like gangbusters in Japan
  • Games emphasize strength-training, aerobics, yoga and balance
  • Wii Fit set to be released May 19 in United States
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By Wes Nihei and Curt Feldman
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(GameTap.com) -- Despite just being released in December, Wii Fit already has sold 1.76 million copies in Japan and is the best-selling game of the year ending March 31.

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In the ski slalom game, users stand on the board and lean left or right through the gates.

Now, with Wii Fit's U.S. debut inching ever closer, it's time for American gamers to start stretching and warming up. But what is Wii Fit? And why is it being seen as the next big product launch from Nintendo?

What makes Wii Fit unique is its electronic balance board that responds to players' movement and weight.

Built-in sensors track the side-to-side and front-to-back movements of the player to control the actions of the player's avatar on screen. Unlike other popular video games that emphasize role-playing, stealth, warfare, or the supernatural, Wii Fit stresses aerobics, strength training, and muscle-toning exercises.

Wii Fit will use the Body Mass Index (BMI) as the key metric to monitor your progress toward a healthier lifestyle.

The BMI is a standard measure of body fat supported by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health.

It's based on height, age, and weight, so after you register the first two metrics, you step onto the balance board to record your weight. Don't worry -- the Wii Fit balance board is rated to at least 300 pounds, so step right up.

In addition to establishing your BMI, Wii Fit will also put you through an initial series of activities to test and grade your ability to balance the left and right sides of your body.

Standing on the board and shifting your weight in all directions is essential to almost all of the Wii Fit games and physical activities. It will then assign you a Wii Fit age, another metric the software uses to record the progress toward your fitness goals.

Of course, the entire point of Wii Fit is that you're going to have to put in consistent, periodic physical effort to stay in shape. To keep you interested and on track, Wii Fit has an impressive list of 40 activities and games that are organized into four main categories: strength training, aerobics, balance games and yoga.

Strength training consists of familiar exercises such as push-ups, lunges, leg extensions, and other activities common to most workouts. You do these by starting with various parts of your body on the balance board depending on the exercise.

With lunges, for example, one leg is on the board and the other is behind you on the floor, so you actually lean into the lunge. Wii Fit analyzes frequency, balance and form.

The aerobics set includes basic cardiovascular activities, such as simple dance step routines, rhythmic boxing workouts and some light jogging, in which you run through a virtual countryside circuit.

There's also a hula hoop game that's fairly strenuous --you stand on the balance board and by shifting your weight, try to catch hula hoops on outstretched arms and then keep them all rotating around your hips.

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Yoga is an intriguing training choice for Wii Fit, and anyone familiar with the regimen of meditative movement, stretching, and breathing can tell you that it's much harder than it looks.

But Wii Fit makes learning the classic forms of yoga look simple. An onscreen avatar teaches you the forms, and lets you know how steady -- or unsteady -- you actually are.

The balance activities reveal the Wii Fit offerings that are most like traditional video games. There's a soccer heading game, ski and snowboard slaloms, and even tightrope walking.

The table tilt is a variation on a tilt-board game where you stand on the balance board and lean in all the right directions to guide multiple balls across a maze-like obstacle course.

Wii Fit Activities

Strength Training: Single-leg extension, sideways leg lift, arm-and-leg lift, single-arm stand, torso twists, rowing squat, single-leg twist, lunge, push-up and side plank, jackknife, plank and tricep extension, push-up challenge, plank challenge, and jackknife challenge.

Aerobics: Hula hoop, basic step, basic run, super hula hoop, advanced step, two-person run, rhythm boxing, free step, and free run.

Yoga: Poses like deep breathing, half-moon, dance, cobra, bridge, spinal twist, shoulder stand, warrior, tree, sun salutation, standing knee, palm tree, chair, triangle, and downward-facing dog.

Balance Games: Soccer heading, ski slalom, ski jump, table tilt, tightrope walk, balance bubble, penguin slide, snowboard slalom, and lotus focus.

The system also acts as a personal trainer of sorts by offering verbal and visual feedback, both encouragement and criticism.

If you can handle the truth about your body according to Wii Fit, it's prepared to be your personal trainer and fitness coach, attributes that some think could mean blockbuster sales for the game and hardware bundle.

But what might hold the real key to Wii Fit's popularity in the mass market is its ability to record and track changes to your body over time.

You can monitor daily, weekly, or monthly progress using easy-to-comprehend graphs and charts displayed on your TV. Moreover, Wii Fit asks you to set fitness goals and to periodically check your progress.

By viewing the BMI and Wii Fit age data such as weight fluctuation over time, Nintendo hopes people will learn to judge what they should and should not do to manage weight and health.

At a recent event in San Francisco, California, Nintendo producers demonstrated the title. The game's lead U.S. producer discussed how Wii Fit helped him address a topic he's chronically avoided, managing his weight, as well as dealing with personal goals of staying in shape and healthy at home and on the road.

That openness, the executive said, is emblematic of Nintendo's core goals with the game: to make health and fitness something individuals and families talk about more often, and with greater candor. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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Copyright: TM & © 2009 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company, or its licensors. Patent pending. All Rights Reserved.

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