Research Bites

Bracko, Michael R. Ed.D., FACSM

doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e318264cc39
COLUMNS: Research Bites

Wii Fit versus Traditional Cardio; Weight Training Work; Strength Training versus Electrical Stimulation; Fitness! Associated with Lower Risk of All-Cause and CVD Mortality

Michael R. Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM, is an exercise physiologist and director of Dr. Bracko’s Fitness in Calgary, Canada. He is a fitness educator, presenter, media consultant, and writer. He works in sports physiology for performance enhancement for hockey players. He is the strengh and conditioning coach for the U.S.A. Men’s Deaflympic Hockey Team. He also works in occupational physiology in the areas of back injury prevention, ergonomics, work-station stretching, and pre-work warm-up.

Disclosure: The author declares no conflict of interest and does not have any financial disclosures.

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This study compared physiological and psychological responses of the Nintendo Wii Fit “Free Run” program to brisk walking on a treadmill. The subjects were 21 college students (9 men and 12 women, 23.2 years). The subjects were measured on the following parameters: heart rate, rate pressure product (resting heart rate multiplied by systolic blood pressure, which is a marker of the oxygen requirements of the heart), respiratory rate, rating of perceived exertion, positive well-being, psychological distress, and level of fatigue associated with each exercise.

The study was randomized, double crossover, and compared the responses of 30 minutes of treadmill walking versus 30 minutes of playing Wii Fit “Free Run.” The results indicate that the mean maximum heart rate when playing Wii Fit was 142 BPM and was significantly greater than the heart rate of 123 BPM while walking on the treadmill. Rate pressure product also was significantly greater by 18% when playing Wii Fit compared with treadmill. Rating of perceived exertion when playing Wii Fit was significantly greater than when walking on the treadmill (12.7 vs. 10.1).

Interestingly, when walking on the treadmill, positive well-being increased from preexercise to postexercise, and there was a significant difference between the two workouts regarding positive well-being. Psychological distress (summation of scores for “awful,” “crummy,” “discouraged,” and “miserable”) decreased when playing Nintendo Wii Fit or when walking on the treadmill, and there was a significant difference between the workouts. Feelings of fatigue (a summation of scores for “drained,” “exhausted,” “fatigue,” and “tired”) increased after both workouts. There were no significant differences between groups for ventilation rate, psychological distress, and fatigue. The authors conclude that Nintendo Wii Fit “Free Run” may give college students a good alternative to traditional moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for improving health and fitness (1).

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This classic worksite health study examined the effect of a workplace resistance training program on health, fitness, and absenteeism in untrained male bus drivers. The subjects were recruited from a bus company and divided into a resistance training (n = 48) and control (n = 48) group. The resistance training group performed a 24-week resistance training program, and the control group participants continued their normal daily activities. The resistance training protocol consisted of the following: three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions with a 10- to 12-repetition maximum load for each exercise and 1-minute rest periods between sets and exercises. Each group was assessed for body composition, blood pressure, pain incidence, muscular endurance, and flexibility before and after the 24-week period. Work absenteeism also was recorded during this period and after a 12-week follow-up.

There were no changes in body mass, body mass index, body fat percentage, and waist-to-hip ratio in either group. In the resistance training group, there was a significant reduction in blood pressure, pain incidence, and a significant increase in muscle endurance (maximum repetitions of push-ups and sit-ups in 1 minute) and flexibility (sit and reach test) after 24 weeks. No changes were found in the control group. The between-group differences were all significant.

A reduction in worker absenteeism was found in the training group during both the intervention and follow-up periods. Absenteeism did not change in the control group. The authors conclude that a worksite resistance training program can be of benefit to workers and employers (3).

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This study compared the effect of strength training with that of electrical stimulation on swimmers. Twenty-four national-level swimmers were randomly assigned to three groups: 1) strength-training program, 2) electrical stimulation training, and 3) a control group. The control group continued normal swim and dry-land training. The training program lasted 4 weeks. The strength-training group performed pull-ups and pulley draws to focus on the latissimus dorsi. They did three sets of three exercises, with 2 minutes of rest between each set. The electrical stimulation group had both latissimi dorsi muscles stimulated simultaneously.

The subjects were evaluated before training/stimulation, at the end of training/stimulation, and 4 weeks after the posttest. The subjects were tested on the following variables: peak torque during arm extension at different velocities (from −60 to 180° s−1) using an isokinetic dynamometer (to the best of this author’s understanding, this test sounds like it mimicked a swimming stroke) and stroke rate and stroke length during a 50-m front crawl.

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The results indicate that there was a significant increase in swimming velocity and peak torque for the strength-training and electrical stimulation groups at the end of the training and 4 weeks later. However, no significant differences in velocity were found between the two groups. Stroke length increased in the strength-training group but not in the electrical stimulation group. No significant changes occurred in the control group. The authors conclude that programs using swimming training with strength or electrical stimulation programs can lead to similar improvements in sprint performance and were more efficient than swimming alone (4).

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This study investigated the independent and combined associations of changes in fitness and body mass index (BMI) with all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in 14,345 men (44 years old). Fitness, as measured in METs, was estimated from a maximal treadmill test. Changes in fitness and BMI between the pretest and posttest during 6.3 years were classified into loss, stable, or gain groups. During 11.4 years of follow-up after the last examination, 914 all-cause and 300 CVD deaths occurred.

The results indicate that every 1-MET improvement in fitness was associated with a 15% and 19% lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, respectively. BMI change was not associated with all-cause or CVD mortality after adjusting for possible confounders and fitness change. In the combined analyses, men who lost fitness had higher all-cause and CVD mortality risks regardless of BMI change.

The authors conclude that maintaining or improving fitness level is associated with a lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality in men. Moreover, preventing a loss of fitness is important for longevity regardless of BMI change (2).

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1. Douris PC, McDonald B, Vespi F, Kelley N, Herman L. Comparison between Nintendo Wii Fit Aerobics and traditional aerobic exercise in sedentary young Adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2012; 26 (4): 1052–7.
2. Lee D, Xuemei S, Enrique GA, et al.. Long-term effects of changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Circulation. 2011; 124: 2483–90.
3. Plinio M, Crewther BT, Lodo L, Florindo AA, Miyabara EH, Aoki MS. Health and fitness benefits of a resistance training intervention performed in the workplace. J Strength Cond Res. 2012; 26 (3): 811–7.
4. Sébastien G, Jalab C, Bernard O, Carette P, Kemoun G, Dugué B. Dry-land strength training vs. electrical stimulation in sprint swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012; 26 (2): 497–505.
© 2012 American College of Sports Medicine