By Maria O’Connell

We are all aware that America has a reputation for obesity, and most disturbing may be the rapidly increasing weight of young people. Many studies have placed strong blame on the video-gaming world – namely the idleness that is linked to this favorite pastime.

What may have been true before is not so true now. Nintendo has invented a new, more fun way to play video games. Released in the fall of 2007, Nintendo’s Wii is an interactive way to play in a virtual world. After its release, users were finding sore muscles to be the result of intense virtual play. The active game quickly and inadvertently turned into a form of exercise.

According to Time, Perrin Kaplan, a spokeswoman for Nintendo, claims that while the Wii was meant to get people up off the couch, it was never meant to be an all-out exercise program. However, as users of Wii Sports utilized the system as a source of exercise, Wii designers cooked up another brilliant idea: Wii Fit.

Released in the U.S. in May of 2008, Nintendo’s Wii Fit has already become incredibly popular. With four different modes–yoga, balance games, strength training, and aerobics–the “game” offers you both variety and fun. Through Wii Fit’s balance board, the program will not only measure your weight, balance, and progress, but will also give you specific feedback on your performance. If you are doing an exercise wrong, it might tell you: “you are too stiff on the right side of your body.” This interactive exercise program has already begun to infiltrate certain niches.

An athletic training professor at Florida Southern College reports to a UK newspaper, the Telegraph, that the department is looking to incorporate the Wii Fit into its rehabilitation program for athletes. As typical recovery exercises can often be quite monotonous, the Wii Fit provides entertainment and feedback. This discovery could lead to a faster, more enjoyable recovery from injury.

Populous retirement communities in Florida have also joined the Wii Fit wave. A newspaper in Fort Myers reports local retirement communities have introduced Wii Fit into weekly fitness programs. It has proven to be a useful way to get older citizens who do not feel comfortable going outside to exercise, working out in the comfort of their homes.

While the original Wii still proves to be a great way to stay active, erasing old worries of video-game-causing obesity, the Wii Fit has bumped video gaming to the next level. The rapid popularity of the program suggests that the fitness enterprise for video games will only expand from here. We can expect to see the virtual world expand with it. If we already use virtual reality for military training, medical exploration, and physical exercise, what heights will we reach for next? And how will it impact our economy?