Virtual Workouts with Real Health Benefits
Being able to physically move through a virtual space leads to many questions, one of the more common is “can I get a workout by playing a game”? The answer is a resounding yes, and in many cases players note how they feel as though they’ve been to the gym after half an hour in virtual reality. Plus the time seemed to disappear before they knew it, rather than the slow boring drag of running on a treadmill or pumping iron over and over.
Some gyms such as Les Mills already include gamified exercises as part of their packages, such as a stationary bicycle following a virtual path on a big-screen projection in front of the class. This isn’t virtual reality, though it’s a step in the right direction. It makes exercise more fun, but it doesn’t go all in with the immersion offered by virtual reality.
In VR, you’re not in a gym (unless it’s a virtual one!), you’re boxing against friends in multiplayer in BoxVR or fictional characters such as Creed and Rocky, or dancing to the beat while squatting and weaving around obstacles in Beat Saber, or simply swinging your arms to run up the mountains of Skyrim. Virtual reality tricks your brain into thinking you’re doing an intense physical activity for real, the exercise is a byproduct of that, not the focus. This is where the fun lies.
The amount of exertion required varies greatly from game to game. The VR Health Institute keeps an up to date online tool for tracking VR exercise ratings compared to real life activities along with estimates for calories burned p/hour. The online tool is available here: https://vrhealth.institute/vr-ratings/
There are however a few drawbacks and challenges to overcome before this fully replaces traditional exercises. By having an additional weight strapped to your face with the VR headset, it can become tiring on your neck after long periods of time. Sweat can be trapped between your face and the headset potentially causing discomfort. And it’s always best to have someone observing from outside VR to ensure players don’t get injured when arms are flailing against imaginary foes.
These issues can be mitigated with new hardware in the pipeline as it develops and becomes smaller and lighter, and in the meantime with the help of experienced technicians skilled with VR in a public setting, plenty of sweat towels or head/arm bands, water, regular breaks and proper stretching routines.
The VR Club offers 5 high-end VR headsets to anyone walking in off the street to exercise in VR in a safe and controlled environment, and is open to partnering with clubs for pre-arranged VR workout classes. Contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information