As the exergame market continues to thrive, many professionals wonder if the virtual world can improve real-life fitness. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2011; 25 [3], 689–93), some games do live up to the hype. The small study included eight apparently healthy nonathlete female college students. During the intervention, the women played the Wii Fit aerobic step game and the hula game at beginner and intermediate levels. VO2max, caloric expenditure, respiratory exchange ratio and rating of perceived exertion were assessed during the trials.

The researchers found that beginner-level games elicited marginal results at best on all measures. However, the intermediate levels produced increased VO2max and caloric expenditure. The hula game was the better of the two, with a metabolic stress equivalent to a 3.5-mile-per-hour walking pace.

“Data from this study suggest that this form of active video gaming (step and hula) can be used as an effective mode of physical activity to improve health in adult women, but that users should strive to participate at higher (intermediate) game levels for fitness improvement,” stated the authors.