Try A Virtual Reality Workout To Stay Physically Fit At Home

It seems every season there's a new fitness trend that people are raving about. Remember bungee? Aerial yoga? What about glorious mud runs? People looking to stay fit without running a few miles a day or pumping iron at the gym are also seeking out engagement. More often than not, engagement is what's missing in a person's workout, making them lose sight of their goals and fall off the fitness train. People say, "find a workout you enjoy," encouraging others to jump into new fitness trends hoping they're a better fit for their personality and lifestyle.

Humans like to be present and engaged. It's what keeps them motivated, satisfied, and mentally stimulated. Some people work out as a form of self-care that allows for escape. For one person, a walk outside may a surefire method to shake off the Sunday scaries, but for others, something that requires more attention and focus may be necessary. 

A recent trend rocking the fitness world is virtual reality (VR) workout games that have people working out for hours rather than the average workout routine that gets you in and out of the gym in under 30 minutes.  Video games and fitness are working together, but is this new fad right for you? 

Video games and workouts collide

Video games carry a long history of stigma attached to them. Words that come to mind when discussing video games are lazy, addicted, unhealthy, and aggressive. But, this new way to approach fitness that incorporates VR is breaking all the rules and fighting that long-held stigma and it has many supporters.

Aaron Stanton is the founder and director of the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. Stanton is working to prove that video games aren't just sedentary, but that they can burn calories and get your heart pumping too. In an interview with U.S. News, Stanton described a time he played a physical video game, "Audioshield," for 110 hours total; way more than he'd used his workout equipment. The sensory engagement VR adds to a workout is enjoyable and effective, which is why Stanton believes people are able to endure more. When you're fully focused on the game and your mind is stimulated, it's easy to ignore how much energy you're exerting. And studies agree with Stanton.

2019 study divided a group of adults into two groups. Both groups participated in bicep curls, while one group did the exercise at the gym, the other did the exercise with a VR headset, which was projecting a virtual copy of an in-person gym. The results showed that the group using the VR headset reported 10% less pain than the group in the gym. The group with the VR headset also had lower heart rates and was able to lift longer.

Do virtual reality workouts give you results?

The short answer is yes, you'll probably see results from a VR workout. They encourage you to exercise longer because your brain is engaged at the same time, which, like a trick of the mind, allows you to work harder without feeling the burn as much. Imagine running for hours on a treadmill without feeling a thing, sounds impossible, right? On top of ignoring the burn, some VR workout experiences are multiplayer, so there is a social aspect involved that also keeps you engaged. It's almost like a buddy system to help you stay motivated and accountable: you can't leave the game before everyone else. These two elements lead to more burn time through a longer workout which leads to more calories burned. 

Stanton and his VR followers are benefitting from the results of VR workouts, but like anything else, these workouts may not be for everyone. Some people will never be video game fans and that's okay: after all, there are certain side effects of doing a VR workout. They may cause headaches, nausea, and eye strain in some experiences. If you're sensitive to motion sickness, it's best to avoid VR workouts.

It's important to be cautious with any new fitness regime by listening to your body. However, you might just find that Stanton is on to something and that VR workouts get you to be more active than ever before.