Wii Sports vs. Real Sports: How Do the Workouts Compare?

The rising rate of childhood obesity has become a major concern in this country, and a contributing factor is a decline in physical activity among children.  Video games and TV have been part of the problem, as the average person in the United States “spends an average of 19-25 hours per week watching TV and playing video games.”  This has primarily been time spent sitting down…that is, until now. 

In 2006, Nintendo came out with the Wii, which is video game system that uses a hand-held remote to sense a player’s motions.  It then translates these motions into on-screen movement.  For example, when playing Wii tennis, a player would hold the controller and swing it like a tennis racket.

You may find that it doesn’t take long to start working up a sweat or get a little winded with certain games.  So, is Wii tennis as good of a workout as regular tennis?  This is the question that exercise physiology students at the University of Wisconsin set out to answer.  These students studied how many calories are burned with the Wii vs. the sport and the results are as follows:

Sport Calories per minute burned (Wii sports) Calories per minute burned (actual sports) Calories per hour burned (Wii sports) Calories per hour burned (actual sports)
Golf 3.1 3.9 186 234
Bowling 3.9 7.2 234 432
Baseball 4.5 7.3 270 438
Tennis 5.3 8.1 318 486
Boxing 7.2 10.2 432 612

Please take note that all of the subjects studied were asked to simulate actual sports movement as close as possible.  It is possible to manipulate the onscreen players using minimal body movement.  However, this would not burn as many calories as what is listed in the chart above.

So, is playing the Wii as good as playing the actual sport?  No, actual sports do burn more calories and they provide more strength and cardiovascular gains because they involve full body motion.  However, Wii Sports can offer a good alternative to people who are looking for an activity that they can do at home.

There is no doubt that it is better than sitting around, and some people may find that they spend more time moving because it is fun and they enjoy the competition.  Bottom line is this…any movement counts, so do what you enjoy because you are more likely to stick with it.

Reference: Anders M. As Good as the Real Thing?  Fitness Matters.  Volume 14, Issue 4. 2008.