Wii Sports vs. Real Sports: Which Burns More Calories?

By Mike Howard

220-db wii.jpgThere continues to be a trend towards the convergence of 2 activities once considered diametrically opposed to one another: Playing video games and playing sports. Since the inception of the Nintendo Wii and more recently Wii Fit, much has been speculated as to how effective it is and more specifically how well it translates to the actual sport in which it simulates.

The guesswork is officially over, with The American Council on Exercise releasing a study that compared the two. Here are the results…Wii Golf: .8 calories per minute
Driving range golf: 3.9 calories per minute

Wii bowling: 3.9 calories/minute
Real bowling: 7.2 calories/minute

Wii baseball: 4.5 calories/minute
Real baseball (pitching): 7.3 calories/minute

Wii tennis: 5.3 calories/minute
Real tennis: 8.1 calories/minute

Wii boxing: 7.2 calories/minute
Real boxing (sparring): 10.2 calories/minute

Notes on the Study

  • Participants were asked to play the Wii games as though they were playing the actual sport.
  • Each game lasted 10 minutes and researchers recorded heart rate and V•O2 at one-minute intervals. Researchers also interviewed the subjects during the final minute of each sport to determine their perceived exertion levels using the Borg rating of perceived exertion (RPE).
  • In addition to burning the most calories, boxing was the only Wii game tested that would be considered intense enough to maintain or improve cardiorespiratory endurance as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
  • 30 minutes of Wii boxing burns about 216 calories


  • The Wii sports games are not as effective as real sports but certainly better than sitting on the couch.
  • Wii games are a good alternative for those who don’t want to go outside for whatever reason.
  • The key to getting a decent workout with Wii is to try and mimic the sport as closely as possible.
  • Bowling is not a sufficient workout whether you are playing a video game or actually bowling (hopefully you don’t find bowling very strenuous).


  1. Hide

    I go to school by bus

  2. Jim

    I don’t think it matters as much which you do as long as you just do it! I love the Wii since we got one several years ago for my son. We got into the habit of having adult parties (keep it clean) where we would compete with our neighbors. It was the most exercise I was getting. We could use the WII anytime the kids weren’t around. It is a lot more convenient, cheaper and fun sometimes then the real thing.

  3. tim

    Anyone bashing the wii as being not as good as the real thing is an idiot. Nobody has argued that they are the wii and the real sport are equal.But 5.3 calories a minute playing wii tennis is 159 calories in 30 min and 318 in an hour and it is fun. I believe resting on the couch i burn about 60 cal. an hour.So if this wii gets you moving for 30-60 min good for you. I use an elipticle trainer, weight training, and wii for extra easy calories burned. Also I eat tuna fish for breakfast and lunch cut out the pop and try to eat chicken-vegies or a salad for dinner. I lost 14 lbs so far in 3.5 weeks and I get to be bad sometimes and eat some junk food, but not much. If I continue this regiment i will be pretty fit in 2 months and the wii helped.

  4. Ry

    It’s a straight physiological comparison of the demands placed upon the body from activity. It isn’t important that real boxing is tuffer. Instead, how the individual responds to exercise is the focus.

  5. tammy

    I think everyone should try it before they start knocking it. The wii fit is a lot of fun and you do get exercise out of it. Like one comment made, you get out of it what you put into it!! Next I am going to get the new workout on wii by jilian on biggest loser.

  6. Kathryn

    Well, there is another indirect benefit. Often when people play conventional video games or watch TV they also eat. The Wii sports and Wii fit make it pretty impossible to eat while playing. So if nothing else, yes, they get people off the couch, they get them moving just a little, AND give them something interesting to do that is not accompanied by eating.

    And I have to say the Wii boxing definitely gets my heart rate up. Not nearly as much as the cardio kick boxing I’ve done before at the Y, but then I can’t go to the Y when I have insomnia at 3 a.m.

  7. Liam

    I can’t see how anyone might think the Wii burns as much as the real sport… but as it says, I guess it’s better than sitting on the couch.

  8. astrogirl

    I do the Wii boxing, and since I’ve never boxed for real, I can’t make a comparison, but I sweat and my arms are sore the next day. Obviously, it’s doing something.

    I also wish they had measured the Wii Fit. I know the Yoga doesn’t burn much, but it does build strength and balance (been doing it since Memorial Day, and I AM better at it). The strength exercises are guided calisthenics and use your own body weight as resistance. They have built muscle on me and taken flab off. You get out of it what you put in. Certainly you can cheat, but why bother at all in that case?

    What I’d *really* like to know is what the Aerobic stuff burns. I use the running all the time because I find the Hula Hooping frustrating (though it definitely provokes sweating!) and the Advanced Step is much too easy. I like the Advanced rhythm boxing, but it’s also become too easy, so now I do the Wii Sports boxing instead.

    I’m down 15 lbs. since we got one, and I’m a lot less flabby, so I’m very happy with the Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

  9. Andre

    I mean to say “nearly as good of a workout”..

  10. Andre

    As a boxer, I refuse to believe that the Wii will give you as good of a workout as actual boxing. Did the people in the study actually know how to box when they sparred? Or did they just jump in the ring and flail their arms around for 30 min?

  11. SCal

    What is overdoing it? Too many people under-do it.

  12. Gabrielle

    Wii does have potential in the weight loss area, but mostly it’s value comes in breaking the ice at partys

  13. guest

    Every heard of yoursself fitness, still awesome.

  14. Spectra

    I can see that playing real sports would definitely burn more calories than playing it on a Wii. The equipment used weighs more and you’re propelling yourself through space instead of just jumping around in front of the TV. However, it IS a lot better than sitting around on your behind and giving only your thumbs a workout.

  15. The Baroness

    Yeah, Wii Sports is not going to help you very much with losing weight, but it’s great to tack a little extra on to your daily calorie burning total.

  16. HeartStrong

    Interesting Post.

    Tips for Exercise Success:

    •Choose FUN activities
    •Choose a variety of activities to keep it interesting
    •Choose a convenient time and place
    •Exercise with a friend
    •Surround yourself with supportive people
    •Use music or TV as a distraction
    •Don’t overdo it!!====You will be in PAIN!!!
    •Reward yourself! (But NOT with high calorie treats!!)

    Check out http://www.heart-strong.com for exercise and heart healthy tips

  17. John W. Zimmer

    Wow… I must be out of touch… video games as exercise? I wish I could have sold that idea to my parents when I used to watch the boobtube (for you youngins – tv) during the day and was chased out of the house to go get “fresh air and exercise!” I will stick with IRL (in real life) exercises for now until VR (virtual reality) gets a whole lot better. 🙂

    John W. Zimmer

  18. Eric

    I’ve been writing a series of blog posts on the exploding use of the Wii in physical therapy clinics. Everyone is quick to jump on the Wii bandwagon, but not so quick to realize just how different Wii movements are to actual function. http://www.npathinktank.com/wiihab/index.html

  19. NeoVitin

    I think your first point of the conclusion section is important. Wii Sports should not be a replacement for the real activity in my opinion, but it is better than not doing anything. Any physical activity is a good thing in my mind.

  20. nodietneeded

    I think wii is a good alternative to not doing anything rather than real sports. If there is no restrictions like the time of the day or bad weather, I’d choose real sports over any gaming tool as to me the fun is not just in burning calories…
    But hey, if it is competing against the bloody video games or overrated TV shows, go WII..

  21. Alex Costa - minimizeme.tv

    I think that the wii is a good alternative for people that hate gyms or for a rainy day.
    Since I live in Montreal and winter here is coooold and looooooooong, I’m thinking to buy one so I can play for 2 or 3 times a week, so I don’t need to go out to do exercise every day.

  22. Yuri | EatingforEnergy.ca

    Real sports rule – all the time but good for Nintendo for getting people off the couch and into some calorie-crunching activity.

  23. Katie

    Personally, I play DDR rather than Wii, but it’s not my only form of exercise. If you add something like this into an already established exercise program, I’m sure it will help. So if you play Wii Sports rather than just sitting around and watching a movie, that’s great! If you use it as an excuse to not go running or lift weights, then it’s not serving its best purpose.

  24. Mark Salinas

    Interesting! No real surprises. It is nice to see that there are some benefits with the Wii. Thanks!

  25. Elle

    Wait, why pick on bowling? No one considers bowling to be a workout, but lots of people consider golf to be their exercise and that apparently burns even fewer calories (unless you count walking between holes, which many people bypass with carts). Pick on golfing which is just a way to ruin a good walk! (according to Churchill)

  26. staci

    i love my wii and i can’t wait to get wii fit. i got the wii because i thought “11pm on a friday i could still have a great game of golf”. but when i actually got it and started using it, you dont just play one minute of any sport, you get a little addicted to it. i played tennis for 2 hours one time and the wii even let me know that i was on there every 30 minutes, and i still didn’t realize how much time had passed. it can’t substitute the results of real sports or give you the same muscles as at the gym (until they find out how to simulate resistance), but it sure does do a body better than sitting and playing PS3 or XBOX 360 live where the only thing moving is the screen

  27. israel

    you must not have been playing it correctly. its not about just standing there and wagging the control around in your hand. its about using your entire body to simulate the activity, for me atleast. And it works.

  28. Jeff

    How in Wii sports even close to their real-life counterparts?

    I’ve played Wii sports briefly and can’t imagine anyone breaking a sweat in a half hour span.

  29. Israel

    nevertheless, you burn calories with wii sports. i personally like the boxing most since i definitely work a sweat up, and feel it in arms after about 15 minutes of non stop action.

  30. Methuselah

    A more general question this raises is where else Nintendo could take us with the Wii. Already there are headsets on the market for controlling games and it’s only a matter of time before we are getting sensory feedback from them – could we soon be making our food taste better with a Wii headset and eating Nintendo branded food? This article suggests how that might work.

    Pay Now Live Later

  31. Rob

    I’d be more interested to see a comparison with Wii Fit. Wii Sports has always been sold as an entertainment product, not a fitness product – and it’s fairly obvious that it’s not really suitable as an exercise regime.

    Wii Fit, on the other hand, seems to be really good at getting people to work up a sweat – and it’s compelling enough to keep the exercise-shy coming back day after day. I’d love to see a study like this put Wii Fit sessions side to side with real sports or gym sessions, and see whether it’s actually as good as it seems.