Virtual Reality and Fitness Collide
When I mention the words VR Fitness or Virtual Reality workouts to anyone, I’m usually met with an eye roll. And if their eyes don’t visibly roll, I can hear them roll.
The fitness industry is prone to guarantees of unachievable results via methods of magic, i.e. the magic pill, the magic workout, the magic mindset, etc.
For the uninitiated (and often the less cynical), this plethora of “hot body” promises is too tasty to pass up. 50 bucks for abs? Oh, And I can have them in 7 days?
Like anything that’s built on the over-selling promises of happiness, it inevitably comes crashing down.
We were duped from the beginning.
And then we say, “I am done with this, for good,” and walk away from whatever reason it was we first decided to take the risk.
For those of us who have already fought those same battles, and came out on the other side, albeit bruised and battered, we have become hardened to the “new.” We still have the emotional and mental scars (and perhaps, even physical if things really went bad) of dipping our toes in the health and fitness pools and nearly drowning under the weight of failed gimmicks.
We now know better, but only because we have been there and were fortunate enough to come out the other side, with lessons learned in tow.
Because of that, we have a perpetual critical eyebrow raised at anything “new” in regards to health and fitness.
So it’s no surprise to me to be met with the utmost amount of rolled eyes when I talk about VR fitness and the benefits of virtual reality workouts.
VR Fitness, or virtual reality fitness, is a type of workout or exercise which is able to be done in virtual reality.
According to Merriam-Webster, virtual reality is defined as “an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.”
So, imagine a video game where you use your controller to control the actions of a character on your TV screen. When you move the joystick in a direction, the character follows. When you push a button, the character jumps. You are, in a sense, controlling a virtual character in a virtual reality.
Now, imagine you’re in the game, and you’re transported to some other world you can interact with. When you jump in real life, you jump in virtual reality. When you punch in real life, you punch in virtual reality.
VR fitness uses that same concept and applies it to working out and exercises. Imagine being transported to a virtual gym, with a virtual trainer who can give you guidance and direction.
VR fitness takes the modern-day world of health and fitness, and removes the restrictions of the “real world” by presenting unique, fun, and legit ways to progress in your fitness journey.
Got that eyebrow still raised? Gimme a chance to change your mind. Let’s take a look at 5 Reasons VR Fitness is the next big fitness innovation.
Are you a newbie who has no previous workout or fitness experience, but want to take the first step towards getting in shape? VR fitness has you covered.
Are you a seasoned vet who expects more out of your workouts than most Insta-Athletes will ever dream of? VR fitness got you too, boo.
Even in these early stages of the VR fitness evolution, one thing has been made clear. Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey, there is a space for you in VR fitness.
How is this possible? Well, most VR fitness opportunities currently are coming via way of the Oculus Quest 2 gaming system, and are intertwined with both games made for entertainment, as well as fitness-based apps.
So if you’re on this fitness adventure for the first time, you can start at a level that suits your current state and work your way up at a pace that is comfortable for you.
The same goes for your age. Just as fitness in general and being in shape is available for all ages, so is VR fitness. In these games, there are always built-in modes for “difficulty” or options to select from different difficulty levels to accommodate your level of experience and/or your age.
You wanna sweat? No problem, jump up to a harder setting and make sure you wear deodorant. You WILL work.
Do you remember the first few times you walked into a gym? Remember that feeling of “everyone is watching me and I look like an asshole?” Remember that feeling that everyone in the gym can tell that you have no idea WTF you’re doing and you don’t belong there?
I do. It sucked.
That’s the reason so many people, who truly want to change and improve their quality of life, procrastinate or even avoid totally starting their fitness journey. That pressure of “I am not one of them and everyone knows it” is an absolute motivation killer.
But VR Fitness fixes that.
Sure, there are strategies to workout anywhere, but they require some kind of sacrifice in your program, that you don’t have to make with VR training.
If you’re worried about looking stupid (we all do more than we care to admit), it’s a lot easier to go ahead and look stupid at home with no one else around. I am far braver in the confines of my home. Having a safe space, free of embarrassment to move our body, sweat and get ripe with B.O, and find our fitness footing without the stress of being judged, is one of the primary benefits of VR fitness.
Just like other home-based workout systems, whether it be home gyms, subscription-based video programs, or simply running in your own neighborhood, VR fitness gives the same opportunity for solo workouts as any of those other options, but with a new technology that has other advantages.
For example, we are not REALLY alone…
A good support system can be the foundation on which you grow. Though they may be at a different point on their own paths, having others going through the process together to lean on and commune with is paramount at times. That’s partially why fitness companies bordering on cultish activity, like Soul Cycle and Peloton have thrived: they create community.
VR Fitness understands this. Similar to most online games, VR fitness has similar opportunities to connect with your friends, make new ones, and break sweats with others also working on their own health and fitness goals.
For example, the popular music/action game on the Oculus Quest 2, Beat Saber, has a multiplayer mode that allows you and another person to compete against each other while beating the shit out of flying boxes and listening to cool music together.
The VR fitness game Supernatural has a leaderboard that keeps track of your workout scores and posts them up with your friend’s scores each week, allowing for bragging rights and/or accountability amongst each other. Not only that, but it also has a fitness trainer (pre-recorded for each session) built into each workout to guide you through the warm-up, the workout, and the cooldown, keeping you motivated (and sweaty).
So even if you prefer to be alone IRL, you can still find the support and connection you need through communities built within each virtual world to help keep your foundation a little stronger.
For many, the biggest challenge of doing workouts at home is that being at home is just not motivating. When you’re at home, it’s easy to get distracted by TVs, pets, kids, bills, responsibilities, etc. And even though those things don’t HAVE to be handled right now, it’s hard to mentally ignore them when they are staring you in the face while you are trying to get swole (or just break a sweat).
Now imagine this. You put a headset on such as the Oculus Quest 2, turn on a game, and now you’re working out on a planet that literally looks like Hell while jamming Waka Flocka Flame. Or maybe it takes you to some strange purple outer space world where you are dodging flying triangles as fast as you can and listening to Skrillex and Rick Ross.
I did both just this week on the Supernatural workout game.
VR fitness takes the distraction of being at home out of the fitness equation. It allows you to leave the comforts of your home, as it were and gives you a fresh and exciting environment to motivate and excite you so you can get more out of your workouts.
Take a look at this picture. On the left, a 24-minute Supernatural cardio workout burned 216 active calories (9 calories burned per minute). On the right, a 33-minute session of free weights (w/ 60 second rest periods) burned off 210 calories (6.3 calories burned per minute).
VR fitness can be just as intense as any other workout that you do and an excellent complement to your already existing fitness routine. It can be another block in your foundation to continue health and fitness. It won’t replace resistance training just yet, but there are interesting technologies on the way to even provide this.
So if you’ve been skeptical about whether or not VR fitness can bring the heat just like other workouts, the answer is: absolutely.
Yes, these are games in a sense, but if you only look at these as entertainment, and only put in the amount of effort required to be entertained, then you’re missing a huge opportunity.
But if you’re willing to lower that critically-raised eyebrow for a second and give VR fitness a chance, and you are willing to approach it as a supplement to your fitness journey, I believe you will see that VR fitness is the next big thing.
The easiest way to jump into the virtual reality world of workouts is through the Oculus Quest 2 system. This is a popular VR system, with games ranging from action, fitness, sports, horror, and adventure. It has basically any genre you can think of. It also has a really great (and growing) library of VR videos, perfect if you want to ride a virtual roller coaster or walk wooden planks between high-rise buildings).
The two Oculus Quest 2 games I would recommend are both listed above. Supernatural is a workout-themed game, with in-app trainers, great music to work along with, and incredible virtual landscapes that teleport you to destinations all over the world (and several not on this planet). I recently did a YouTube review video of this that you can see below.
Beat Saber is the other option I would check out. While it’s not a fitness-themed game, it’s known for its cardio capabilities. Don’t let the “game” label fool you…yes, it’s fun, but you WILL feel the burn.
We are in the early stages of mixing virtual reality and workouts together. While most VR fitness is currently centered around games and apps that coerce sweating and probable B.O at home, the genre (and the Metaverse) is expanding. In 2019, the world’s first virtual reality gym opened in San Francisco. There are new games and systems being released frequently.
Virtual Reality Fitness is also predominantly cardio-based in these early stages, although as the genre expands, resistance training for VR workouts is sure to follow.
And looking at my 5 reasons listed above, it’s no wonder why. VR fitness is legit, and this is only the beginning.