REWIND discusses the future of virtual reality in health and fitness
With the Coronavirus crisis leading to the closure of gyms in countries across the world, many have been getting creative with home or outdoor workouts. While online videos can help provide inspiration, people are also turning to virtual reality (VR) for a different, effective workout.
Some may be skeptical of the ability of VR to burn calories, but numerous case studies prove it can. For example, one man lost 50 pounds through playing BOXVR and another who played VR games for 50 days in a row saw serious results. One of the great things about virtual reality is that it takes the work out of a workout because it’s seriously fun—you’re playing a game that doesn’t feel like exercise—and now a new study has proved this.
Brunel University London and the University of Exeter joined virtual workout games creators VirZOOM to see how VR dials up pleasure and helps people lose ‘exercise consciousness’. The study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, showed that virtual reality makes exercise more enjoyable.
In a controlled experiment with 24 volunteers on exercise bikes, experiencing virtual rolling French countryside with music, perceived enjoyment raised by 26.4%, compared with a control condition of no VR or music. VR combined with music raised enjoyment by 17.5% when compared to music on its own.
“The exerciser’s mental bandwidth to process fatigue is reduced by the virtual world and soundscape provided by the immersive technology,” said lead author, Dr Jonathan Bird at Exeter. “Participants appeared to thoroughly enjoy the virtual reality exercise and enjoyment makes people more likely to stick to a routine.”
Games also offer the opportunity to set, monitor, and achieve exercise goals, which contributes to motivation. Plus a VR headset shuts off the real world, enabling you to get fully immersed into the flow of the exercise.
If you’re thinking of starting a virtual reality fitness journey, here are some top tips for having a safe and fun workout.
Choosing The Right Headset
There are a lot of choices when it comes to getting a VR headset and it can be quite overwhelming if you are new to the technology, but if you are just looking to virtual reality for an exercise boost, then you can’t go wrong with an Oculus Quest. It’s powerful enough for most active games and cordless so you don’t have to worry about tripping on cables. At $400 it is quite an investment, but you may be thinking about spending that on a piece of exercise equipment anyway.
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Before you put a headset on, you have to prepare a few things to ensure your safety.
- First of all, make sure you have enough space for your workout. Your space requirements will vary depending on your headset or game, so make sure to read any in-game instructions and the headset manufacturers’ recommendations. Check your surroundings for sharp corners, tripping hazards, or places where your headset cord (if you have one) might get tangled. Make sure you shut any pets or children out of the room too!
- You will also need to prepare your headset for sweat! If you’re going to be breaking a sweat, you want to protect your hardware from damage. Consider buying a wipeable faceplate protector so that you can keep it clean - these ones from VR Cover are great.
- Always make sure to use the wrist straps on your controllers to prevent any mishaps whilst you’re working out.
- And lastly, just like any gym workout, make sure to warm up and cool down to make sure you don’t pull a muscle or hurt yourself.
Once you’ve done this preparation, you’re ready to start choosing how you want to work out. VR Fitness Insider notes that almost any game can become a workout if you have a fitness goal in mind. By exaggerating your movements and adding weights (like ankle weights, or even a backpack filled with books) whilst playing your favourite first-person shooter, you’ll be burning extra calories in no time. For games that require you to stand still, why not try doing a little jog on the spot? Or for games where you have to dodge, try lunging or squatting instead. With these small changes, you’ll get the best out of all your VR experiences, whether they’re fitness-focused or not!
- Credit: VR FITNESS INSIDER
Choosing A Game
The table below shows a list of some of the most calorie burning games you can play in VR, with data taken from the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. This organisation was founded in 2017 to use cutting edge laboratory equipment to better understand the calorie impact of VR experiences on the human body.
A great addition to your new fitness regime is the free VR Health Exercise Tracker app from the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. It is the world’s first VR-specific calorie app that is built on hundreds of hours of VR-specific metabolic testing using research-grade equipment, making it the only official calorie tracker designed to be accurate for exercising in VR.
If you want to be truly high tech, check out this new tool from YUR: a virtual reality smartwatch that allows you to track fitness metrics without any wearable heart rate monitors from a virtual watch interface. The YUR.watch includes features such as heart rate and calorie estimates, squat counter, daily calorie goals, and customisable aesthetics. At the moment it’s launching with integration into four Oculus Quest games: OhShape, RacketNX, Sairento, and Synth Riders—just head into the settings to toggle on YUR.