x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Resistance is useful

The Wii can be used to burn some body fat but it still doesn't measure up to an old-time workout in the fresh air.

Here, in the UAE, summer has reached its heights and now the end is in sight. It's a last push to stay in shape through the second half of the season for the outdoor opportunities of cooler weather. What better time to see what the Wii craze is all about? I've been hearing about Wii for years. At first I'd hear stories of broken thumbs and shattered computer monitor screens from early adopters playing pretend tennis or squash. Then I heard about friends doing interactive Wii yoga and strength training. In a video game? Sounds brilliant, I thought. What better way to get couch potatoes off the sofa?Then last week I discovered waterskiing, canoeing and 10 other activities in the new Wii Sports Resort, released last month. I might be a late adopter, but now there's no stopping me.

The Wii Sports Resort rocketed to the top of the video-game charts after its release. It is the fourth biggest first-week release for Nintendo's Wii products. Wii Fit was the biggest, with video game modules that seem remarkably like classes on yoga, balance, strength training and aerobics. So how does it work? You start by choosing a Mii, which is a representation of your virtual self, and go through a series of exercises in something called a Body Test. This gauges your ability to balance, your Body Mass Index (BMI), and your body control. The results of the test then determine your Wii fitness "age" to help you begin at an appropriate level. Wii then tracks your results over time and designs a progressively harder training regimen as you improve.

If your BMI is on the high side (which is calculated using motion-sensing technology as you turn around in front of the monitor), Wii may recommend the aerobics module. If your balance is shaky, you'll get steered toward balance games. Unfortunately, Wii will not steer you out of the house on a mountainous hike, but we're not all looking to trek across Greenland's barren ice cap like the Dubai-based adventurer Adrian Hayes.

Instead, we are looking to stay strong, to have energy to do the things we like to do, and to live longer doing them. A new review of 121 trials in the Cochrane medical database provides support to Wii's cumulative methods. It also shows that resistance training helps older adults in their everyday activities. Without conditioning, muscle strength decreases naturally as people age. Progressive resistance training uses free weights, elastic bands, or exercise machines to strengthen muscles. The resistance is adjusted according to the person's progress, improving the ability of older people to perform all manner of activities. So, while the Wii gets you to move, you'll have to get yourself to the gym to feel the benefit of this kind of exercise.