Monday, September 08, 2008

Fun and Exercise

The big news in my life this past week arises from the purchase of a Wii Fit and the necessary accompaniment, the Wii Console.

Between this and the new television I have almost thoroughly plundered my tax refund and so sealed the fate on any overseas travel plans that I had for a couple of months time. The truth is, I was finding the prospect of coming back to a completely empty bank account and the end of semester drop in income all a bit stressful anyway. This way I'll be able to stay at home in a more comfortably feathered nest while I take advantage of the extra time at my disposal and toil away at my thesis.

While I've been wishing for a new TV for quite a while now, the Wii package was a bit of an impulse purchase following a blood test and subsequent phone call from my doctor.

First of all I learned I needed to top up my thyroid medication. It's a strange kind of relief to get this direction, because it means that any slumpiness I've been feeling is not on account of any fault with myself in the sense of my personal attitude towards things, it's because my thyroxine levels are low. Or at least that's how I'll excuse any lack of motivation or low mood on my part.

The next piece of news was not unexpected either. I've had blood tests before that have revealed elevated cholesterol levels. It's a familial thing, although the only heart problems that I'm aware of in my family's history have been suffered by post-menopausal women. Either way, it's still not a good state of affairs for me personally and so I will embark on the doctor's advice, as I do every time, with a renewed sense of determination, as I also do every time, to keep up with the ingestion of fish oil and psyllium husks. This time I have actually gone out and bought one of those margarines that help lower cholesterol absorption. I haven't done this previously because I tend not to use butter or margarine as a spread; I go without, and any cooking is done with olive or canola oil, peanut oil or, yes, butter. Although I so rarely cook with butter--less than once a fortnight--that I figured it would have little effect. But obviously I'm getting the bad version of cholesterol from somewhere so anything that will help reduce its absorption must be embraced.

The other major factor in elevated cholesterol is, of course, the dreaded exercise. This is something my doctor also asks me about every time I see her. As with the dietary advice, I try and commit to doing more, but aside from a three year period in my mid-twenties, I've never been a natural athlete or exerciser. Courtesy of high-school PE classes I've always associated exercise with bullying, abject humiliation, and acute embarrassment. (If there's an obesity epidemic, then it's not just the purveyors of fast food who need to step up and take responsibility. Every PE teacher who's ever cultivated a fascist class environment is just as culpable).

Anyway, this is where the Wii Fit enters the equation. I saw it advertised and I can't tell you the intense feeling of relief that came over me. I almost feel tears thinking about it. Here was an opportunity to exercise without being harassed by men leaning out of cars while I walked up a hill near where I live. Here was an opportunity to exercise without being scolded for my lack of co-ordination. I wouldn't have to go out, or be pressured into gym memberships with direct deposit payment plans. I could exercise whatever the weather and wear the least flattering of clothes.

I've been using the Wii Fit for four days now. I did the intial body tests and received the bad, although, again, not unexpected, news. I've set goals, guided by the eminently sensible advice offered by the Wii Fit. I've exercised between 30 - 45 minutes every day, and that's not counting the time I've spent bowling, boxing, and playing tennis on the Wii Sport application that came with the Wii Console.

I've learned I'm not so bad at the Wii versions of bowling and boxing. Although I'm not so bad at bowling in real life either. I'm enjoying the tennis; I'm glad it's getting a little more difficult as I progress.

But back to the Wii Fit proper. I think what is so good about it is the emphasis it places on posture and core body strength as a mark of athleticism. It measures that according to your ability to maintain and control shifts in your balance in the various activities on offer. In this vein, I've been skiing and ski jumping and tightrope walking. A few times I've faltered and my Mii--the avatar you create of yourself--tumbled down a hill gathering snow in a tangle of skis and limbs. Twice I fell off the tight-rope while the watching crowd commiserated. While trying to hit a soccer ball with my head, I've been smacked in the face by stray football shoes more times than I care to recall.

There are muscle and yoga workouts too. From the muscle workouts I've learned I have pretty good deep muscle strength. It's encouraging to learn that. No-one's ever made that observation before. I've done meditation before and been told I'm a good breather (what a relief :-P), and that was confirmed by the yoga exercises. The beauty of the yoga program is that the Wii board senses the shifts in your balance, so can offer you advice on maintaining the proper posture in your poses. Very handily, throughout all of the exercises the Wii tracks your balance and allows you to correct yourself by making sure the tracker is always in the blue or yellow areas which are indicated on the screen.

Finally, the aerobic activities have also proved fun and beneficial too. I'm still trying to work out the running. I'm supposed to run at 60% capacity without overtaking the Mii in front of me. I can't quite figure out how to do that, I'm only managing 44% capacity at the moment. It's something to do with consistency of pace.

I'm glad I've just managed to unlock a boxing training game. I'm not sure why I like boxing so much, obviously it's something to do with my knockout success in the Wii Sports version, plus there's almost certainly a head game going on with it too.

I've had moderate success with the step programs. I really am not in possession of much in the way of rhythm. Something to work on.

That said, you should know that I am the hula-hoop queen. It's the one thing I've scored full marks for so far. Not saying I could keep a real one in motion for three minutes straight, but in the realm of Wii, I can maintain six in orbit while catching another two.

While I don't really want this blog to be a tool for the promotion of any product, Wii Fit has transformed my attitude towards daily exercise. For that alone it has been a revelation and, indeed, a revolution. It has more potential to improve my health than any other exercise activity I've tried; it has certainly been more effective and encouraging than any human purveyor of physical activity I've ever encountered.


Oanh said...

Your comment that school sports should also answer for the 'obesity epidemic' is very accurate!

I loved exercise and sports in primary school and hated it in high school - where all the cool girls looked impressive and gorgeous and sporty, and I looked clumsy and short and un-athletic. Even though I'd been good at distance running and netball in primary school, I gave them up in high school. God, it was scary. And I made up all kinds of excuses to avoid swimming. And the coaches of all the afterschool sports. Ugh. I took up distance running again when I got older and a bit more steely in my approach to other people, and also because no team rubbish could marr it.

Wii Fit sounds like a good way to get people exercising. And rock-climbing is the sport of nerds and geeks, I have found!

Oh, and I also now know not to message you re trip to UK :-)

Shado said...

Rice bran oil it seems is king when it comes to actually lowering cholesterol. I swear by it myself - even if I don't have a cholesterol problem. It has a high burn point - great for cooking and is delicious as a salad oil with lime. See

Thanks for explaining the Wii fit. I have been wondering for ages what it actually was!

Re the overseas trip. I haven't been away since 1999 due to the extreme expense and the exhaustion factor. Travelling used to be a lot more fun. One is up for at least $7,000 for a short os trip.

Zoe said...

Good on you. Don't be afraid to give us progress updates either!

ThirdCat said...

For some reason, my comment won't register. Anyway, for the last couple of days, I've been trying to say:

'that's it...I'm getting one'

dogpossum said...

You know I'm just waiting til you get into dancing. Then we will be all-dancing, all-critical-thinking demons!

Kirsty said...

Glad to explain the Wii Fit for the curious.

I can't believe I'm such a petal about all this exercise/team sport stuff still. It's those terrible childhood wounds... Perhaps all my Wii Boxing will make me steelier, maybe even dance like a butterfly or sting like a bee (did I get the words right there?)

Third Cat, you should get one and together we can box the ears of who/whatever prevented you from commenting.

Thanks for your encouragement Zoe. I'll probably write a few things on Twitter over on the right there by way of updates. Meanwhile I have suffered a humiliating three set defeat in the tennis. My Mii looked so downcast. Awww.