For my first “outside the norm” experiment with Wii Fit, I decided to try and simulate what it may be like for someone with limited or no use of their legs to use the Wii Balance Board. For these tests, I assumed a person to have use of their abdominal muscles and both arms.
These tests are in no way scientific outside of a little creative math use and it should be noted that I am not a medical professional of any kind. Please take caution and be sure to warm up when trying any physical activity mentioned in this article.
The hardest part for me was the initial registration. Obviously, the Wii Balance Board was meant to be stood on during this test. At first I started by telling Wii Fit that I was 2’ 10” (87 cm) tall, roughly how tall I am sitting down and a bit more than half my actual height of 5’ 6” (168 cm). Read More...
After making my way through the initial test once, I realized that far more than half of my body weight was being registered by the Wii Balance Board. The test results gave me a Body Mass Index (BMI) well over 55, considered obese. On any given day I’m between 125 and 130 pounds (56-59 kg) and have a BMI of about 20.50, so I knew I had to try something else to get a somewhat accurate test result.
I grabbed my trusty bathroom scale, put it on my living room floor and sat on it with my legs straight out in front of me. I figured this would be the best simulation of how someone with little or no leg use would feel comfortable sitting on the balance board and also the easiest position to recreate for multiple tests. I also used a workout bar I have to keep my legs “pinned down”, ensuring I didn’t use my leg muscles too much. I found that my body was putting about 110 lbs (50 kg) of weight on the scale, approximately 85% of my actual weight. I also tried with my legs bent at a 45 degree angle and registered about 80% of my weight.
I started up the test again. This time I told Wii Fit that I was four feet eight inches (4’ 8” or 142 cm), about 85% of my actual height. This time the test gave me a BMI of just under 25.00. It’s not very close to my actual BMI, but it’s a much more reasonable way to start and at least put me into the “normal” range. I didn’t think Wii Fit would be an accurate way to measure BMI for someone who can’t stand and I was right, but I did feel it was important to try and get a somewhat accurate representation of myself while sitting in order to make the game feel more “normal”. I also had Nathalie do the bathroom scale test and we found the 85% number to be fairly accurate with her as well.
Now obviously my exact calculations won’t work for everybody, but hopefully my method will help you find numbers that work for you, or someone you may be helping try this experiment. One could always just create a “dummy” Mii and only do the exercises, but doing the Body Test can be half the fun of Wii Fit. The numbers may not be perfect, but my simple method does allow basic weight gain/loss tracking.
I found that quite a few of the exercises and games outside of the body test were very doable while sitting on the board. Obviously different muscles are involved than when standing and I found myself using my arms and abdomen quite a bit. The handles built into the bottom of the Wii Balance Board proved to be quite useful for grip and balance as well. What follows is a rundown of the activities available on the first day of Wii Fit as performed while sitting on the Wii Balance Board.
For the body test, I found that I had to sit towards the front of the Balance Board for Wii Fit to recognise me as centred.
I was able to do the Basic Balance and Walking tests fairly easily by gripping the handles on the sides of the Wii Balance Board and using my arms to shift my weight from side to side. The Blue Box test worked much the same, though I had to stick my arms out in front of me to move the cursor forward. Just leaning my head and torso forward didn’t seem to work very well.
The Single Leg Balance and Steadiness tests were obviously quite a bit easier while sitting on my rear. I couldn’t figure out a way through them without “cheating”, but 3 out of 5 aren’t bad at all.
I generally found my Wii Fit age to be about two years lower when doing the Body Test sitting down than when standing. Let’s move on to the exercise activities...
Deep Breathing: The first exercise available in Wii Fit. I found that it was easier to maintain my balance while sitting and my abs actually got a much better workout than while standing.
Half Moon: I had similar results as Deep Breathing. It was easier to keep my balance centered but my abs and sides got a real workout compared to when standing.
I found the Warrior and Tree poses were undoable while sitting. That’s not to say they’re impossible, but I could not find a method that worked without feeling like I was cheating.
Single Leg Extension: Obviously I couldn’t swing my leg behind myself while sitting. What I did here was lean to each side and balance on one buttock. Then I exaggerated the arm movements found in this exercise. While technically cheating, I found it a good arm workout, especially with wrist weights.
Torso Twist: This one was almost better while sitting. Twisting side to side really worked my abs and upper torso. When asked to twist towards the ground, I reached down my outstretched legs instead. Torso Twists was a great workout. As usual, my balance was a bit better than while standing.
The Push Up and Side Plank and Jackknife exercises were unable to be performed while sitting because of the nature of the activities.
Hula-hoop: I did this one by gripping the Wii Balance Board handles again. Swinging my torso around really worked my triceps and surprisingly, my pelvic muscles quite a bit. I was able to do quite well at this while sitting, though my tailbone was sore when I was finished. A small pad to cushion the top of the Wii Balance Board would have been of great benefit.
The Basic Step activity proved extremely tough for me to do while sitting. Without actually lifting myself off of the Wii Balance Board, I really couldn’t figure out how to get through it.
Basic Run: For this, I set the Wii Balance Board aside and held a Wii Remote in my hand. I simulated running by swinging my arms with mixed results. On one hand my arms were getting a real workout during the run, especially while wearing wrist weights. On the other, Wii Fit kept telling me my pace was uneven and didn’t give me the best score. It’s quite possible I was swinging my arms too much.
Soccer Heading: Wii Fit’s iconic mini game was quite a bit easier for me while sitting. Using the grips on the Wii Balance Board I was able to swing my weight back and forth as well as hit the centre spot with little effort.
Ski Slalom: One of my better events while standing, I found it a bit tougher to adapt to this one. In order to register my weight as being forward and hit the speed zone, I had to stretch my arms out forward like Superman. This position made swinging my weight from side to side to steer a bit more difficult. It definitely worked every muscle I could feel in my torso.
Ski Jump: Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to pull off my favourite event while sitting. To start, I stuck my arms out in front of me again to gain speed. No matter how many times I tried though, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get the takeoff right.
Table Tilt: This is the last activity unlocked by default on day one of Wii Fit. My usual technique of using the Wii Balance Board grips was pretty ineffective here, as was trying to swing my arms around. I found that actually placing my hands on the board around me with a fair amount of pressure was the way to go. Essentially I turned the Wii Balance Board onto a large touch pad and it worked quite well; I was able to complete the whole Marble Madness style course.
So, there you have it. I was able to do more than half of Wii Fit’s exercises while sitting on the board instead of standing without feeling like I was cheating the game, or more importantly myself. Though what was doable did provide a good activity level, I’d have a hard time recommending a $90 Wii Fit purchase to someone with limited or no leg use, simply because a large amount of the activities were not able to be performed while sitting. If the package was $50, I’d recommend it across the board.
On the other hand, I would definitely encourage owners of Wii Fit who have friends or family with limited or no leg use to try it out with and join in the fun with them rather than just watching. After completing a workout session while sitting, I felt just as satisfied with myself as after a regular session. I was afraid this experiment would be discouraging, but I found the exact opposite to be true. Being able to perform the activities while sitting and compete with my “regular” scores gave me a great sense of accomplishment, and that can be even more important than the activity itself.
Brian Papineau > Game Forward
Photos by: Nathalie Caron > Game Forward