Interactive Exercise Video

Exercise video has been a staple of the fitness industry ever since the early days of the VCR. So why not an interactive exercise video? Why couldn’t we have, in effect, an exercise video game?

That’s the idea behind Wii Fit, an exercise video game that’s already a huge hit in Japan and is set for a late spring release in the United States, for which Nintendo is reportedly planning the largest product launch promotion in the company’s history.

Based on the product descriptions so far, Wii Fit isn’t even quite the right idea — it leans a little too far, perhaps, in the direction of trying to be your personal fitness coach, while not exploring the potential of, for example, getting that annoying fitness instructor to slow down a little and explain everything.

Imagine being able to take your favorite exercise class or video, take out the exercises that hurt your knees, and adjust the tempo so that it fits your fitness level and body size.

Well, Wii Fit isn’t that. But it’s close enough that you can see that the various possibilities of interactive exercise video are on their way. And it’s useful enough in its present form that it will not be surprising if Wii Fit’s first-year sales, even during a recession, exceed the number of health club memberships in the country.

Why not? After all, compared to a YMCA membership, the price of a video game is hardly anything. There is no commitment, no schedule conflict, the exercise director won’t suddenly cancel it, and unlike the gym, you know it will get better as the years go by.

And sales of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are far higher than the number of actual guitars and drums in the country.

The only real objection I can think of to exercise video games in principle is the same objection you could make to all exercise equipment. You don’t need a game to exercise. You can exercise at will without any equipment at all. Yet that does not mean there is no purpose in exercise equipment. The reason for an exercise video game, like any other exercise equipment, is to help you maintain your mental focus so you can make the most of the time you spend exercising. And video games have a pretty good track record at helping people maintain their mental focus. They are more effective than classes, more effective than books, more effective than video tapes. So based on that, perhaps the video game is the ultimate format for exercise. We’ll find out more in a couple of months.

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