It’s a new year, which means a new reality check for all of us here at the Homestead. The excesses of the holiday season did a number on my waistline, and so I am working this month to shed the extra cookies off my middle. The gym is not an option (after a long battle to quit my most recent gym, I have a pathological avoidance to giving any gym my credit card number), so we are building up a gym of sorts at home. I scavenged a 20 year old Nordic Track skier from my parents, which is providing some great cardio, and we upgraded the Wii Fit (which had been gathering dust in the living room) to Wii Fit Plus.

Now, I’m not one who normally enjoys video games, preferring real games to the digital kind, but the Wii in general has won me over with it’s sports simulation games. Mashing buttons is not fun (for me), but standing up and getting physically involved in the game is a blast. Last year we got the Wii Fit as a Chirstmas gift, and for weeks we played it silly until we grew bored of the limited games the disc provided.

This year Nintendo has upgraded the Wii Fit to Wii Fit Plus, so I sprung the $20 for the disc (since we already have the balance board, I did not need to purchase the whole bundle). I am impressed by the many upgrades to the game, and it’s got me playing it almost daily. The disc has a bunch of new training games, including my new favorites: cycling, skateboarding (who could have predicted I would love that?), rhythm kung fu, and snow ball fights. All the yoga and strength activities have been “unlocked,” so I am no longer made to think I have to earn the right to do a certain pose. The kids were able to make Mii’s for the pets, which they enjoyed. In all, the game is now a good deal more fun.

There are other improvements, too, which make the game more functional as a workout tool. For one thing, it now gives you an estimate of calories burned for your session based on your weight (did I mention is weighs you?) and duration of each activity. There’s also a feature that lets you build and save specific workout routines to select from a number of prepared routines. As with the previous version, you can record physical activity done outside of the game, but now you can also record your waist measurements.

There are some other things that weren’t changed, which I wish were. If you gain the slightest bit of weight, the silly thing admonishes you and makes you explain the increase using one of a very few offered excuses, all of which involve you admitting to overeating. This is a bit humiliating, especially if the weight gain is temporary water retention, normal weight variation, or, as happened to me, the result of trying a new sleeve on the balance board that removed 12 pounds for my weight when on (which the game celebrated as though a 12 pound loss in one day was somehow healthy) and added 12 pounds back on when removed (resulting in me getting a lecture about my eating habits). This kind of negative humiliation is not something that motivates me to return the next day, but on the flip side, learning to ignore it when it was obviously uncalled for is perhaps a good mental skill to practice.

Despite the unhappy reality check of watching my Mii get chubby after each day’s weigh in as the machine gleefully declares “That’s Overweight!” I do think the Wii Fit Plus is a lot of fun and, if used regularly, can be a useful part of an overall fitness routine. It may not be a substitute for playing real sports out in the real world with other real people, but in the cold of winter, it certainly is more fun than a treadmill!