The future of home fitness has arrived

REGULAR readers will remember that South Yorkshire Times reporter LIAM HODEN is on a weight loss quest, aiming to improve his physique in time for his wedding next year. After six months of diets and gym workouts, our man was ready to try anything to vary his routine - so the release of Nintendo's Wii Fit gadget was particularly timely...

A BOLTON-ON-DEARNE man who spent more than 12 hours rescuing stranded people in Sheffield during the height of last summer's floods has been handed a bravery award from the Royal Humane Society for his efforts.

LOSING weight and getting fit is hard. Finding the motivation to do those things is even harder. But now something has come along which can help you drop the pounds and stop uncontrollable panting - all in your own living room, and it's fun at the same time.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future of home fitness. Welcome to Wii Fit.

The people at Nintendo have done it again and produced another highly interactive gem for their revolutionary home entertainment console. But this time they have produced something that may change the dynamic of personal fitness forever.

Wii Fit will put you through your paces in yoga, muscle and aerobic workouts as well as a selection of fitness games that are both fun and effective at getting your blood pumping.

Without question, Wii Fit will shake up the lucrative fitness industry and perhaps put an end the workout DVD side projects of yo-yo dieting celebrities. So sorry Janice Battersby, you'll have to come up with something else to boost your Coronation Street pay packet.

For the first time ever you can have your own personal trainer in your own home for a one-off fee of 70, someone who will monitor your progress, give encouragement and provide timely telling offs when you fall off the wagon. Something that even workout legend Liz McDonald cannot offer.

That personal trainer just happens to be the Wii Balance Board which monitors pressure and weight distribution to keep an eye on your progress. This thing is obsessed with good posture and after a few plays you will develop the same dedication.

After entering all your personal details and using your little Mii character, the Balance Board weighs you and gives you your body mass index.

Your Mii starts off skinny but inflates as you are weighed. I personally thought that mine was not going to stop until it filled the screen but when it did I wish it had kept going until it blocked out what the data was saying. Yes, I'll have to spend a lot of time with this new baby.

After finding out about my obesity, I was put through some basic balance tests which is the basis of the Wii Fit philosophy. Most of the tasks it gives you are based on keeping your balance which initially seems easy but quickly becomes near impossible.

Then you are presented with your fitness age which is a bit of a lottery really. This is one of the weaker aspects of the software as your age seems to be entirely based on balance. I know people that have tried this who can run for hours but then got ages ten to 15 years older than they are because they cannot keep their balance while I - someone who cannot run up the stairs without getting out of breath - was once told my fitness age was just three years older than I am after I had a good session of balancing well.

Once the setup process is out of the way, the fun begins.

The yoga section begins with teaching you the basic breathing principles but soon you will be standing on one leg with your other doing all manner of things. True yoga fanatics may balk at this but it is a good introduction to a difficult discipline.

Muscle workouts target different areas of the body with multi-rep exercises, some of which are tortuous, especially the ones involving press ups.

The aerobics session gets the blood flowing but is also a lot of fun. Step aerobics takes the dance mat craze to a new level by stepping on and off the board and watching people with a lack of rhythm - like me - doing this is a good laugh. This idea is taken a step further with rhythm boxing, where you use the Wii remote and nunchuk to throw punches while stepping back and forth, my personal favourite part of Wii Fit. Using the Wii remote as a step counter you can also run around an island on screen while jogging on the spot in your living room - something which the people in the flat below me probably do not appreciate.

Then there are the balance games which generally involve shifting weight on the board to move your on screen character. Included is heading footballs kicked at you, downhill skiing, ski jumping, tight rope walking and even meditation. All of these are easy to pick up but difficult to master and thinking about balance and weight distribution becomes part of your life.

Each section is good fun and does the job of stretching you out, working muscles and getting you well on the way to being out of breath.

All that said, Wii Fit is not perfect. The biggest omission is a feature to sequence exercises such as the yoga positions to give you a full workout without breaks to select the next routine. You are told after some exercises that it would be useful to pair it with others to work certain sections of your body but then you are not given the option of going straight to those. Also, this is really a one player piece of kit because switching users is fiddly and takes too much time which really prevents group fun.

The lure of watching Liz McDonald on the cobbles means that other things will often take up your TV screens so it may go by the wayside on some occasions. It also becomes much easier after several weeks of use and fails to challenge you as effectively after a while. Wii Fit makes a good side project for more serious exercise or something simple to keep you ticking over.

But remember that this is only the first version of Wii Fit and it can only improve. The popularity of this piece of hardware will undoubtedly see further versions of the software developed now that the Balance Board is in so many homes. A yoga only version would be greatly welcomed as would one that got the heart pumping with a lot of different games or more strenuous aerobics.

You may even see a Sonia from Eastenders version if she’s got any business sense.