Wii Fit, a video game developed by the Japanese firm Nintendo, could motivate the inactive into an exercise regime, according to a new study from Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
The researchers found that the participants, the majority of whom were female, showed significant reduction in body mass and fat deposition around the abdominal area and improved strength, balance and walking fitness.
QUT Creative Industries Research Associate Dr Harvey May, a former personal trainer, said the group of women felt more motivated to exercise after the two-week fitness regime and reported feeling better about their body image, despite previously being sedentary for long periods.
"All of the women participants had various improvements in their markers of fitness and their measurements, losing 2-3cm from their waist and abdominal circumferences," he said.
"The fact that nearly all of participants improved balance, strength and lowered fat mass is significant.
"Wii Fit is not better than other exercise, but it could well be used as part of a weight loss program as an additional or complementary tool.
"It is particularly effective for sedentary people who are time poor and would like to start exercising again in the comfort of their own home.
"They are the hardest cohort to get back into an exercise program."
Dr May, who conducted the independent study with QUT alumnus Dr Masa Kagawa from Kagawa Nutrition University in Japan, said the supervised, one-hour training sessions included yoga, strength exercise, aerobic activities and balance games.
However, Dr May warned Wii Fit had its downsides, including repetitive exercises that could cause injury and poor direction for some activities.
He said in one instance, a 29-year-old participant said she "nearly cried" when Wii Fit measured her fitness age as 41.
"People did not like the precocious nature of the Wii avatar telling them they're not trying hard enough or getting slower. I don't think that's very useful for people who are sedentary or overweight," Dr May said.
"All but three of the 16 participants continued to exercise after the study concluded and took up activities including walking, swimming, gym membership or purchased a Wii Fit.
"The important lesson is if you enjoy the exercise, you're much more likely to stay with it.
"For people who already have a moderate level of fitness Wii Fit could be a bit of fun, but you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars for a game console to become healthy."