Adults in industrialized countries are less physically fit than their counterparts twenty-five years ago. Exergames (encouraging players to be physically active through game play) are proposed as one means of encouraging inactive individuals to be active. The Wii Fitness Study tracked physical activity by midlife and older women after they were asked to play the commercially-produced exergame Wii Fit Plus as part of their overall program of physical activity. Thirty participants (ages 40-79) were tracked for three to six months. The data was collected and analyzed based on Kathy Charmaz's constructivist grounded theory approach. Data collection methods included semi-structured interviews, self-reported weekly minutes of activity, Wii console data, and previously validated fitness tests for aerobic endurance, lower body strength, and standing balance. The interviews and fitness tests were conducted at the beginning, mid-point, and conclusion of the study. Unlike traditional approaches, the numerical and textual data were compared using the constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. The frequency of Wii Fit Plus use was determined by the participants. While older and more sedentary players used the exergame throughout the study period, younger and more active participants preferred vigorous-intensity outdoor activities to indoor monitor-based play. For participants whose balance was poor earlier in the study, regular use of Wii Fit Plus improved their ability to stand one-legged. Wii Fit Plus balance games helped women over age fifty-four to determine that many of them could retrain their balancing ability. To participants who had been previously sedentary, the moderate-intensity forms of activity offered by Wii Fit Plus appeared optimal, and success playing the game encouraged those participants to continue their positive exercise experience. Participants wanted to remain ‘fit for life’, sustaining physical activity in multiple locations using diverse individualized approaches. This study has provided both reasons and evidence suggesting that exergame designers might usefully exhibit the same level of functional creativity as cell phone designers have done. Only then can the exergame become a vital part of an overall program of physical activity, equipping many more of us with the confidence and competence to become, and to remain, fit for life.
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