TRAVERSE CITY -- Think the weight loss game can't be fun?
Think again, say Carol Henderson, fiance Dave Saxton and friend Mary Roeters. The three work out together every week using the Wii Nintendo game and EA Sports Active software.
"It's very different but we have fun," said Saxton, who hosts the Wii workout in the big living room of his Copemish ranch home. "It's a good way to meet people, it's a good way to try and get people healthy."
The overweight group formed in the fall and meets three times a week to shed pounds using the video game -- on a large-screen TV -- a cordless remote and secondary Nunchuck controllers. Developed in collaboration with fitness expert Bob Greene, the interactive program offers 20-minute circuits that feature a variety of familiar activities like running, walking, basketball and volleyball for cardio and upper and lower body workouts. It includes a "virtual personal trainer" that offers guidance, motivation and training tips, and in-game tools that let players set up a profile, track their progress and win "trophies."
"It's a great workout and we are all progressing and can feel a difference," said Saxton, at 200 pounds the team's unofficial cheerleader. "The team approach helps a lot with motivating each other."
Roeters tipped the scale at 323 pounds, but has already lost eight pounds with the workouts.
"I haven't been able to stick to dieting, but I'm sticking with this," said the Honor woman, who braves all but the harshest weather for the workouts, which she hopes will also help reduce her high blood pressure and joint pain. "It just clicked.
"A big thing is the extra energy and positive outlook it gives me because I'm actually doing it. I said I'd do it and I am," she said.
A former tennis and karate enthusiast whose favorite Wii workout circuits include tennis, boxing and bowling, Roeters said she plans to drop almost a third of her weight over two years.
"When I lose 100 pounds I'm going to take myself on a horseback riding trip into the mountains for a week," she said.
Henderson has been diabetic for four years and hopes to lose 80 pounds.
"I was always very active until I graduated from college and got a desk job and then I had a lot less time to be active," said the Munson secretary, who turned 53 on Christmas Day. "It becomes harder and harder when your metabolism slows down. I like the Wii because it's interactive, it's fun, it doesn't feel like exercise and you can go at your own pace. There's a lot of things to choose from and they're all fun, but dance is my personal favorite."
The group warms up on a treadmill and a stationary bike and recently added strength training on a Bowflex home gym to their regimen. Customized workouts take place on alternate weekdays, with Mondays doubling as weigh-in days and Fridays reserved for lighter, more fun workouts like playing bowling or canoeing.
"The goal as a group is to work out three to five days a week for a month," said Saxton, a once-athletic concessions business owner who began exercising again after discovering he had high cholesterol. "If we do that, we all go out and go bowling or swimming at the local pool."
The fitness video game was designed as an inexpensive and easy way to help maintain physical fitness and healthy living, according to its manufacturer. But does it work?
"Absolutely," said Mary Lannin, an independent personal trainer with an office in Traverse City. "It all works. If you enjoy and can stick with it, that's what's going to work for you."
Lannin said such games can be especially helpful for those just starting out, those who need the motivation of others and those who, like Roeters, don't have money for a gym membership or a personal trainer.
"I can't afford to go to a gym. I'm laid off," said Roeters, who worked for a title insurance company. "Besides, the Wii is fun. It's not like there's a whole gym full of really buff people around watching me puff my way through this."
Roeters, 59, said she tried all the usual methods for losing weight, but nothing seemed to stick except the extra pounds. Now she can exercise on a treadmill for 17 minutes at 2.2 mph -- up from 5 minutes at 1.1 mph.
"We're competitive enough that we try that extra bit harder because somebody else is there," she said.
The group is looking for new members and has even posted an online ad. To join, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.