After giving birth to two children and gaining more than 100 pounds, South Carolina mom Julie Maloney couldn’t seem to lose weight. Then she discovered an unlikely secret weapon: video games.
Over the course of two years, by playing games on her Nintendo Wii and eating smaller portions, Julie dropped the pounds. She also started the Web site wiimommies.com, where women trade tips on how they work out with the Wii.
“Some people go to weight loss groups,” says Julie. “I go online.” Although Julie and her friends don’t physically exercise together, they encourage each other via her Web site, Facebook, and other online meeting spaces.
Their stories are different but goals are similar: to get more active with the help of virtual fitness.
North Carolina museum curator Sarah Downing loves to log on to wiimommies.com each day to check in with her online buddies. She started playing the Wii during the winter months when it was too cold to work out outside, trying boxing and yoga.
“If I don’t work out before bed, I know when I wake up I’ll log on and have to admit it to my online friends,” Sarah says. “Knowing they’re checking on me motivates me to move at least 30 minutes every night.’”
It’s not all fun and games—you do break a serious sweat. The Wii comes with games to encourage vigorous movement, including boxing, tennis, and bowling. The Wii Fit Plus (sold separately) lets users customize their full-body, individual routines, from strength training to jogging. Players use a controller and stand on a balance board, which monitors and delivers real-time feedback on screen.
The Wii prompts players to input personal data, such as height, weight, and fitness goals. Over time it keeps track of how you’re progressing, measuring small steps (for example, calories burned) and larger steps (weight loss).
“The technology keeps you accountable, but nothing is better than real people you can chat with after you’ve gotten a great workout—or diverted from your healthy eating plan,” says Renee Ross, a mom from Atlanta, Georgia.
Julie and Renee exchange tips online about the workout program EA Sports Active, which focuses on strength training and cardio exercises in a “virtual gym.” (The newest version of the game comes out on November 16 and includes a heart rate monitor and motion tracking sensors to make sure you’re doing the exercises properly.)
Like Julie, Renee now spends time each day cheering on her friends who are just getting started with the Wii. She’s also currently training for a half-marathon to raise money for cancer research.
“It feels good to be this active and to know there’s a community of women cheering me on.”