Whenever the obesity debate rears its fat, ugly head it’s never too long before computer games are mentioned as a cause for the nation’s weight problems. Stock footage of kids sitting motionless with controllers in hand – sometimes in black and white to really hammer home how mundane and lifeless these poor fatty’s lives are – is used to illustrate why children seem to have morphed from tree-climbing scamps to swill-swigging lumps.
But not all computer games inspire mannequin-esque levels of motionlessness. The Wii’s arrival back in 2006 encouraged activity with most games requiring you to flap about like a toddler having a tantrum to play them. Soon, lounges up and down the country were filled with families looking like they were having fits and egged-on grandparents nearly breaking hips. Any level of activity is – of course – a good thing, but with the recent release of the boxed version of Wii Sports Club for Wii U, we wondered how playing virtual sports compares to the real thing.
For our test we used a Jawbone UP activity tracker and compared calories burned over 15mins. Let the games begin!
Burn, baby burn
A frankly disappointing amount of spectators turned out for this year's Wimbledon Mixed Doubles final
Up first: tennis. Most of the games on Wii Sports Club can be played with flicks of the wrist and not much else, but that’s not the point of this test. All furniture was cleared from the middle of the room and we donned our tennis whites (not really – we’re not that sad). We weren’t exactly running back and forth for each shot, but made sure we put some welly into our returns to make our session as active as possible. When the 15mins was up we’d worked up a slight sweat and were breathing heavier than normal, but what did the UP make of our energy expenditure? To put the result in context we’ll compare it to an estimate for calories burned playing tennis for real, and also just watching TV.
Wii Sports Club tennis: 94
Real tennis: 146
Watching TV: 19
The real sport calorie counts we're using are taken from the web and can only ever be educated estimates because individual calorie burn depends on your BMR (basal metabolic rate i.e. the amount of calories your body naturally uses while resting), and the intensity you play at. But as a rough indicator Wii Sports Club compares pretty damn favourably – especially to just monging out in front of the telly.
Every little helps
Due to their more passive nature, the next three sports (bowling, baseball and golf) didn’t do so well in the calorie burn stakes. Though having said that, bowling did actually score similarly to the real thing (32 calories for the Wii U version compared to 54). Though having said that, bowling has never been a sport that conjures up images of svelte athletes.
Some particularly patronising advice there from Jenny. Thanks Jenny - we'll try!
It’s tricky estimating calorie burn figures for baseball because depending what portion you’re playing then calorie burn will be wildly different. Golf burns a moderate amount of calories in real life (around 66 per 15mins), but that’s because of the walking and bag carrying involved. The main issue with the Wii U version of both sports is the amount of waiting between actually doing something active, but even taking this into account they both scored a little over double of the calories you would get through just sitting on your arse.
The comeback kid
It might not be looking too impressive for Wii Sports Club’s fitness credentials right now, but it’s not game over yet. Last up to be to put through the wringer is boxing. Again, like with tennis we cleared the immediate area of furniture and really got involved to give it a fighting chance of competing with the real thing. Fifteen minutes of punching, blocking, ducking and weaving later and we were embarrassingly exhausted. The difference with boxing to the other sports is not only is it inherently more frenetic, it’s near impossible not to move your feet as if it’s a real fight. Or at least, what we assume our feet should do in a real fight.
Who really needs arms to box anyway?
The result? Real boxing: 177, Wii U boxing: 132. Not bad. Not bad at all. The question of whether we can keep up that kind of intensity is another entirely. Also, as a side note, watch out for each other if you’re playing two-player. A combination of focusing on the TV and a general lack of spatial awareness meant a couple of our punches actually connected. Those hip-popping pensioners don’t look so silly now.
We’re not likely to win a Nobel Prize for the accuracy of our ‘scientific’ tests, and the Wii U versions of sports are no replacement for the real thing. But compared to passively sitting at home gawking at a box all night, playing Wii Sports Club is a vast improvement. If your kids don’t like exercise, or you feel guilty that the only sweat you work up while playing games is over your shrinking kill/death ratio, the Wii U could be a smart purchase.
And don’t forget there’s also Wii Fit U, a title that blurs the line between game and personal trainer. Click here to see what we thought of using it as a fitness tool.
Wii Sports Club is available to download from the Nintendo eStore right now, alternatively you can buy a boxed copy from the shops
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