Getting Ready for Those New Year's Resolutions

For many people the time has come for the annual ritual of self examination and improvement planning. I personally gave up making resolutions a few years ago, as they tend to annoy me, or rather I made a resolution to not make any more resolutions, which I have kept quite well thank you, but I know many of you will be making long lists and checking them twice. If improving your health is on your list of things to do in the new year you might want to think about tracking down a Wii Fit, a device that has been nothing but helpful for me since I bought mine in late August.

The Wii Fit was designed specifically to help with balance but has the potential to help you in five areas; balance (which helps with every aspect of life), yoga (which builds strength, flexibility and patience), strength training, aerobics and motivation. When you put them together you've got a nicely rounded program that can do quite a lot to improve overall fitness.

When you first start using the system you'll do your first body test, which include weighing and measuring your BMI, (which I think stands for Baloney Measuring Index as it will tell you you're fat if you're actually quite well muscled, since the BMI only looks at weight and height, not body composition) and tests your balance. You'll take two balance tests, which don't last very long, usually about thirty seconds each. You may stand on one leg or you may take twenty steps while the balance board analyzes your gait.

Then you'll be given a Wii Fit age. If you've been playing Wii Sports you're used to this concept but if you're completely new, then you may not have seen it before. The Wii Fit balance board will take your actual age, look at your balance and posture and give you an age that represents your overall shape. As your balance improves your number will drop. My own has ranged over the course of forty years (!), with the high coming on a day when I was really sick and the low coming after using the game for a couple of months.

You'll also have the option of setting a weight or BMI related goal. You can either try to gain or lose weight and you set your own deadline. The program will tell you how many pounds you need to add or subtract every two weeks to hit your goal and you always have the option of changing. From then on every time you do your body test the program will tell you how far you are from your goal and will usually tell you you’re making good progress.

Once you've got your daily body test out of the way you can move on to training. My understanding is that the game's designer invented the game partly because Japan has a rapidly aging population. By emphasizing balance and posture, the idea is to lengthen the amount of time a person can enjoy their activities of daily living without requiring assistance. An older person with a fantastic sense of balance is going to fare much better than someone like me, who sprained their wrist falling into the wall when they got up one night and lost their balance.

There are a variety of games on the Wii Fit designed to improve your balance. One is a tightrope walk, which I find a little disconcerting as there are a number of people watching and cheering. Do they want me to succeed or are they hoping I'll fall? I'm never quite sure. There is also a fun game that involves your Mii (the little fellow that represents you in the Wii world) dressing up in a penguin suit and sliding around on an iceberg catching fish. You can also float down a river, wrapped in a bubble that will pop if you touch anything, including a bee which flies around annoying the heck out of you. There's also a soccer game where you whack the balls with your head while dodging shoes and panda heads. I'm always distracted by the panda heads as I can't figure out where the team got the heads or what I did to deserve having them hurled at my head.

The strength training games range from upper body builders like triceps exercises and the plank (a complicated form of a pushup that's also very good for building strength in your back) to a whole body exercise that involves holding the Wiimote over your head as you stand up and lay down again.

There are several aerobic choices including my very favorite; boxing a steampunk robot. I like it because the robot is so silly. He or she leads you through choreography that combines stepping on and off the balance board with punching the robot in various combinations. You also get the opportunity to just pummel the heck out the thing, with the ability to pretty much wreck the machine, leaving it in dire need of a trip to the repair shop. Other options include running in place with several paths you can take or a free run, which encourages you to change the channel on your television and watch a program while you exercise and get advice through your Wiimote. There is also a step program where you and a bunch of other Miis step on and off the balance board in time to some music. It's a tiny bit like Dance Dance Revolution, in that you follow the steps that appear on the screen before you.

You get fitness credits for each minute that you train with the Wii Fit. The program would like you to aim for thirty minutes per day and keeps a running total of all the time you've trained since your first day. The credit bank is in the form of a piggy bank and has its own little ways of expressing satisfaction when you meet certain time goals.

I have been extremely happy with my Wii Fit. The only problems I have with it are small quibbles. I'd like to actually be able to run wherever I want on the island when I do the free run, instead of running in a big circle around the perimeter. I'd like to be able to play my Wii Sports and have those games show up as fitness credits in the Wii Fit. I'd also like to see an update in May, for the one year anniversary with new games. This would help prevent boredom and burnout, which we all know can be a problem with exercise programs. If these are the biggest problems I have I think the Wii Fit is doing rather well.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from Castaway who wrote in with a comment about Cruseo, a television show running on NBC. "Crusoe is more real and more interesting than Survivor and the characters are better looking. Crocodiles and pirates keep the action jumping." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at