Playing video games used to be a fun excuse for sitting on the couch, relaxing and doing much of nothing. Then came along the Nintendo Wii, and its healthy counterpart, the Wii Fit, and video games were sedentary no more.

Losing fat, or lowering your body mass index (BMI) while exercising on the Wii Fit's balance board is supposed to be easy if you're less inclined to go outside or to the gym. Moving around on the small pad may not look like much of a workout, but anyone who has even tried the Nintendo Wii without the Fit, knows that Nintendo has figured out how to make it fun while keeping your heart rate up.

The board measures a user's weight and center of gravity in about 40 different activities such as hula hoop, yoga, snowboarding and pushups, and balance games, strength training and aerobics. The user's "fitness age" can be tracked.

The base system retails for $89.99, and you already have to have a Nintendo Wii to hook the Fit up to. But they can be difficult to find in stores. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, for example, the Wii game console was the most popular product sold on eBay -- 3,017 sold for an average price of $349, according to the New York Times. The Wii Fit was also popular, with 1,305 units sold for an average of $143.

Demand has outstripped supply in the United States, where in June 2008 the Wii Fit was reported to be selling at an average of $175 per unit on Amazon.com and eBay. In May, when the Wii Fit was released in America, 690,000 units were sold in the United States, making it the country's third highest selling title for the month, according to the NPD Group.

The Wii has sold more than 25 million units, partly on the premise that it's easy to use and something families can do together. Women, who typically don't play traditional video games, are a growing audience.

Some mock it, saying that saving $3.19 on a hula hoop is worth it to stand in front of your TV and move around, and that a kid would rather stay inside than go out and play soccer. "Standing in place has never been more fun," the mock ad says. They may be right.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job hunt at www.talesofanunemployeddad@blogspot.com


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