In order to fulfill the all-too-common “New Year’s Resolution” of exercising and losing weight, many are turning to virtual reality (VR). While known more for video gaming, VR apps also offer workouts. VR workouts are already becoming quite popular (thanks in part to pandemic gym closures) and will continue to be on the rise with the new year.
Background: Working Up a Sweat
There are many benefits to VR workouts, the biggest one being the convenience of home. No more treks to the gym or worrying about gym closures due to the omicron variant. If you have a higher-end VR headset, like the Quest headset from Oculus, you can easily download an app that will get you moving around your home. These workouts are very user-friendly and add fun varieties to your exercise routine. From swinging swords to traveling to Machu Picchu, VR workouts can keep your mind entertained and your body busy. These workouts are for all ages and fitness levels and can be a fun alternative to going to the gym. They can also encourage more kids to exercise, without having to turn off their games.
Analysis: The Benefits and Drawbacks of VR Workouts
Many VR workout apps hide their workouts in the form of games. Oculus Move, from Facebook’s Oculus, offers workout games where users can fight aliens, become dancing heroes, and more using their Quest headset. Other apps, like BeatSaber, use lightsabers, colored blocks, and music to get people moving. Many users have found that VR workouts don’t even register as exercise to them, as they think they’re just playing another game. This makes the workout more satisfying, as the user burns the calories and has fun. For some users who promise to workout for 20 minutes, they can easily workout for double the time with no problems. This makes VR workouts an attractive option for people who have a tough time motivating themselves to workout.
There are, of course, limits to using VR workouts. Due to the limits in the technology, the workouts are only designed for cardio. If you want to lift weights, you have to use actual weights, as VR can’t create that sort of resistance, yet. VR workouts also aren’t specific to certain muscle groups, but instead, target the body as a whole. This can be beneficial for those looking to burn calories, but also frustrating for individuals looking to develop a particular muscle group, or use the workout for physical therapy. These workouts may also take some getting used to, as users wear VR equipment while sweating, which can make headsets a bit uncomfortable.
Outlook: Changing Gamer Stereotypes
As VR workouts continue to rise in popularity, the stereotype look of the video-gamer may change. Instead of a pale or frumpy millennial or Gen-Zer, the user may be more fit than expected (not necessarily less pale), thanks to their VR workouts. In time, more programs may develop that include weights and resistances, but for now, users seem pretty satisfied playing games and burning calories at the same time.
Kenna Castleberry is the Science Communicator at JILA and a staff writer at The Quantum Daily and The Deep Tech Insider. She has written various pieces on diversity in deep tech, covering stories from underrepresented communities, as well as discussing how science fiction contributes to the reputations of deep technologies. Follow her on Twitter @kennaculture