Just as technology has changed the way we work, consume content and keep in touch with our friends, tech-based innovations have modified the way we exercise. These days, you can livestream classes with your favorite trainers, track your vitals through a smartwatch and track your steps through connected footwear. But all of these examples have one thing in common: They exist in reality. However, the newest training trend operates outside the bounds of reality and transports users to a virtual world.
Virtual reality platforms are still in the early stages, but more options are becoming available to those who wish to workout in a digital environment. And the health benefits look promising.
A study conducted by the State University of New York tested the effects of wearing a VR headset during a cycling workout. It found participants using the VR system experienced increased heart rate and calorie burn and were better able to ignore bodily sensations like pain, which allowed them to work out longer than those who did not wear the headset.
If you’d like to try virtual reality training for yourself, here’s what you can expect.
First, you’re going to need the proper equipment to immerse yourself in a VR world. Most headsets are gaming-focused, rather than fitness-specific, but the VZfit pairs with any stationary bike to take your cycling into the virtual world. Pedal through different countries and landscapes or race an F1 car, and you’ll enjoy logging those miles.
Devices like the Oculus and Vive offer certain games that will have you working up a sweat while you play. There are multiple boxing games, plus tennis and racing games that keep your arms and legs pumping. There’s even a game called Hot Squat where you literally do squats in a virtual gym.
If you want to take things to the next level, you can try Icaros, a full-body system with even more fitness applications. The machine offers dynamic exercise programs that train your strength, core and coordination, while letting you experience different VR environments, like a futuristic space scenario.
Working out in a virtual world might appeal most to users who enjoy playing video games, but virtual workouts can benefit anyone — especially those who’ve grown tired of the typical gym experience. Boxing a realistic-looking opponent (without fear of losing a tooth), holding a plank as you fly through space, or biking through the Alps are great ways to mix things up. Plus, with the opportunity to enter races, win games and receive rewards, users are incentivized to keep playing. In this case, that means continuing to burn calories and improve one’s health.
Perhaps best of all, those who suffer from gymtimidation can work out in the privacy of their own homes while still experiencing the benefits of instructor-led classes, group fitness or sports.
THE VR GYM
If you live in San Francisco or Boise, Idaho, you can visit Black Box VR, a new gym dedicated to virtual reality fitness. More locations are opening in the future. If one opens near you, you can enlist its unique hardware that incorporates pulleys for a real workout that feels like a game. The games were created by trainers and exercise scientists, and require cardio and strength-based movements that tax your muscles, to the tune of a few hundred burned calories per session.
You obviously don’t need VR equipment to exercise. But, if you can’t go to the gym, want more motivation to work out or just want to try something fun, VR might be the answer. As the category grows, there will be more devices and games to try. One day, going for a run or hitting the weights might entail slipping on a headset and entering a digital environment. The future is a weird and wonderful place.