Does the Wii deserve an American Heart Association logo?

Does the Wii deserve an American Hearth Association logo?It does not promise to turn a couch potato into an athlete, but the Nintendo Wii is one video game system that incorporates calorie-burning movement in its gameplay. That movement can be anything from a flick of the wrist to swinging a bat, boxing or using a Wii Fit accessory to do yoga or exercise with a personal trainer. But should all that -- and a $1.5 million contribution to the American Heart Association -- earn the most active Wii games the right to wear the venerable association's logo?

The logo will only appear only on on the Wii Fit Plus, Wii Sports Resort and a Wii system which plays both games.

But the recently-announced partnership with the American Heart Association is already drawing criticism from health experts. Still, there is much to like about the surprise partnership of video game maker and one of the world's most recognized health advocacy organizations.

First, the partnership is not an all-out endorsement by the association of video gaming, but a push to get children and adults to step-up their level of activity. As part the publicity effort associated with the partnership, the AHA launched Active Play Now, a web site designed to help consumers get more informed, more empowered and ultimately more active.

On Good Morning America Monday, Dr. Richard Besser questioned the "unprecedented" partnership and spoke to the AHA and health experts to find out what they thought about it. Not surprisingly, the experts interviewed agreed three-to-one that they had concerns about the partnership.

The biggest of those concerns centered around the fact that Wii exercise doesn't compare to the real deal and that the use of the American Heart Association's logo by Nentendo was more about its $1.5 million contribution that it was about Wii's heart-health benefits. While I believe that Dr. Besser is spot on when he cautions families to not make purchasing decision based on a logo, I think he may be missing the forest for the trees when it comes to active gaming. You can watch GMA's "Wii Good for Your Heart?" segment in its entirety online right now and make your own judgment.

Good Morning America provides a great example of an exercise that can't be replaced by the Wii version: boxing. The report shows that if you were to actually go to the gym and box, you would burn 200% more calories than playing on the Wii. What the report misses is that going to a gym to box is a major hurdle for many people, but boxing on the Wii is easy to do. According to the calculations performed during the Wii Sports Experiment, a 15-minute Wii boxing session burns 125 calories, which is 7 times more than a 150-pound person would burn watching TV for 15 minutes. Plus, sparring with a Wii is less likely to give you a broken nose.

While I don't think the Nintendo Wii will solve our nationwide obesity epidemic, I certainly feel it is helping many individuals practice healthier living. Using the Wii won't replace all exercise, but it is a great entry point for otherwise inactive people to commence a more active life with supervision and a plan. It's troubling to see an assault on a partnership that will raise awareness of the importance of being active.


Wii Sports Experiment Montage from hey_suburbia on Vimeo.

The AHA issued a response to the GMA segment in which it cites the benefits of small steps toward a healthy lifestyle. This includes recent research that points out there is a "substantial impact even of posture on the calories we burn during our non-exercise periods. Standing is better than sitting is better than lying down on the couch or in the recliner. This supports the idea that even small changes can be beneficial."

The partnership supports the Heart Association's push for a more active lifestyle. What that means will depend on who you are and what you already do and is best summed up in their response to Good Morning America's piece, "Our message is one of incremental change: if you're doing nothing, do something; if you're doing something, do a bit more."

Bottom line: A Wii isn't going to magically make you or your kids healthier, but it does make it easier to add fun physical activity to your life and the life of your family. With some discipline and supervision over what your family is playing, you can make your own heart smart partnership that includes the Wii as a component of an active lifestyle.


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