Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Wii Fit Can Cause Eating Disorders

According to childhood obesity experts, Nintendo's Wii Fit game tells healthy kids they are fat, and this could lead to eating disorders and self-esteem problems.

The Wii Fit calculates players' fitness levels based on their BMI (body mass index), and advises whether the player is underweight, ideal weight, overweight or obese.

The BMI is a statistical measure that calculates a person's optimum weight relative to their height. This can sometimes be ok for adults, but it is not an appropriate measure for children. The BMI measure does not take into account the age of the child or their stage/s of development.

The Wii Fit includes a weight-sensitive and motion-sensitive balance board. This can be used for working out, aerobic exercises, balancing activities and even yoga. It comes with more than 40 exercises such as push-ups, step aerobics, snowboarding, jogging, tightrope walking and hula hooping.

Nintendo have acknowledged that the BMI calculations in the Wii Fit were based on adult measurements and might not be accurate for children.

Childhood and Adolescent weight management experts suggest that a BMI measure is not very ideal for measuring adult fitness, and even moreso for children.

"Anyone that's even overweight can actually be fit, although the more overweight you are the less likely you are to be fit. But with children they have more fatty tissue at different periods of their life and they have a larger body surface area relative to adults. The BMI is still worked out on height and weight but the age of the child has got to be taken into account."

In Britain recently, a father reported that his 10-year-old daughter (who weighs 42 kilograms and maintains an active lifestyle) was "devastated" after Wii Fit told her that she was fat.

In another case, an 11 year old weighing 44 kilograms was tol by Wii Fit that she was overweight. Her reaction was to tell her mother that she wanted to go on a diet.

It is well known that if someone is told that they are over or underweight when in fact they're not, it can cause self-esteem and image problems (especially for children and girls).

NINTENDO'S RESPONSE:

According to Heather Murphy of Nintendo, the Wii Fit is "capable of measuring the BMI for people aged between two and 20 but the resulting figures would not be entirely accurate for younger age groups due to varying levels of development, sex and age."

"The BMI results will differ depending on an individual's stage of development, so the resulting figures should be used for reference purposes only."

"Parents who are concerned that their children will react negatively to one of the four BMI categories should use Wii Fit in such a way that the BMI tracker does not appear on screen."

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