Can video games be a workout? Yes, experts say, and virtual reality (VR) technology is ushering in a whole new way to exercise.
Pop on a VR headset, load up the right game, and suddenly you’re in sparring inside a boxing ring or skiing in the Swiss Alps, says Aaron Stanton , founder and director of the Virtuelle realität Institute of Wellness and Exercise, an independent research organization launched within 2017 to study the effects of virtual plus augmented reality technology upon fitness. (Since its founding, the business has partnered with San Francisco State University and the virtual fact platform VIVE. )
VR exercise isn’t different from other types of aerobic exercise , according in order to Stanton. You’re getting your heart rate up, working upward a sweat, and burning calories — but it’s not as monotonous as logging miles on a treadmill.
“The best exercise is the one with the highest amount of painless minutes, ” Stanton states. You’re going to keep doing the particular workouts that don’t feel like the chore and instead feel like something you actually enjoy, he says. “That is where VR comes in. It’s fun, so you forget you are even exercising. ”
Here’s more about what the research says, as well as everything a person need to know to get started with VR fitness.
What Is VR Fitness?
Virtual reality is a computer-simulated environment; hardware (a VR headset) allows users to navigate plus interact along with the simulation. VR can be used for many purposes, such as medical care and research, training, entertainment, plus yes, health and fitness.
With VR fitness, you use hardware (the VR headset) and software ( a collection of games) in order to immerse yourself in digital surroundings, explains Mathias Sorensen , an American College of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer and curriculum manager at the American Fitness and Nutrition Academy. Sorensen, an avid gamer, says he started using VR fitness games in 2015.
In a video game, you control your player or even character in the game with a handheld controller. In VR fitness, a person control your own player or character by moving your body. That means you might be up on your feet hopping for several seconds or minutes as you jump over laser beams, or doing a few squats plus side lunges as a person ride the VR roller coaster, or even swinging your own arms intensely as you use a sword to fight a monster, Sorensen states.
“You’d be surprised in how quickly your heart rate jumps up when you’re doing a minute associated with jumping in a game, ” Sorensen says. Depending on the game and how much you are moving, he admits that, the energy expenditure may be similar to other types of cardio you might do in a more traditional workout — or even more intense.
While some VR games are purely for entertainment (though you may burn some calories or work up a perspiration while playing them because you are moving), others are made specifically with regard to working out , says Jeff Morin, CEO and cofounder of Liteboxer VR , which dubs itself the “fitness-first” boxing game.
Personal trainers designed the library of workouts in Liteboxer VR, for example , with brand new exercises added daily, Morin says. Workouts feature music from artists such as Machine Gun Kelly and Lady Gaga, and a coach instructs users about proper form.
The workouts within Liteboxer VR are similar to those in a workout video or app, except now you’re fully immersed in the simulation. So , rather than looking at the boxing ring, you feel like you are actually in it, for example.
Liteboxer VR tracks players’ timing, accuracy, and velocity of punches, allowing them to improve upon their personal best. They can actually go head-to-head with fellow players in sparring matches. On average, players burn about 300 calorie consumption per 30 minutes.
What Science Says About Whether VR Games Count as a Workout
Research says yes, virtual reality online games can become just as extreme as some other workouts.
In a paper published within Games regarding Health Journal in 2018 , researchers put three virtual actuality games ( Audioshield , Thrill of the Fight , plus Holopoint) to the test on 41 healthy men and women between ages 18 and 39.
Each participant played each game for 10 minutes while experts measured their own heart rate and oxygen consumption with VO2 max testing equipment (a face mask plus tube system that’s worn during workout to measure physical fitness as well as the number of calories from fat burned).
The particular physical activity required for all three of the video games met power expenditure benchmarks for moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, states study coauthor Jimmy Bagley, PhD , an associate professor associated with kinesiology and research movie director from the Strength and Conditioning Lab from San Francisco Condition University, where he studies virtual truth health and physical exercise. (Dr. Bagley is part of the Virtuelle wirklichkeit Company of Health and Workout partnership, for which he helped measure the particular calorie expenditure of hundreds of VR games , comparing each one to its equivalent in traditional exercise and rating them on the organization’s website. )
The Centers intended for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 moments of moderate-intensity exercise per week . Brisk walking is an example of moderate-intensity workout, while jogging or running is an example of vigorous-intensity exercise, per the CDC.
In Excitement of the Fight — a boxing game exactly where players punch, lunge, plus duck in order to dodge hits — participants burned an average associated with 9. 74 to 15. 32 unhealthy calories per minute, which is on par using the calories burned while rowing.
“Some of the participants were working with 80 to 90 percent of their particular max coronary heart rate. They were definitely sweating, ” Bagley says.
Within Holopoint, players are archers, shooting arrows at opponents while jumping, lunging, and squatting to escape attacks. Bagley says individuals burned roughly 7. 6 to 12. 69 calories per minute, which is similar to the particular quantity of calorie consumption you’d burn off playing tennis in real life.
In the Games to get Health Diary study, the team also found that people exercising within virtual reality often underestimate how much energy they are exerting. They rated running on a treadmill as “moderate” exercise, whereas playing the VR fitness game felt like a “light” workout to them.
Bagley suggests that this is because players are usually absorbed hanging around, focusing upon earning points or beating the boss to get to the particular next level.
A study published in Psychology of Sport and Physical exercise in 2019 compared two groups of adults doing biceps curls: 40 people did the exercises in a gym and another 40 individuals exercised along with a VR headset, viewing a simulated room that was a virtual copy from the real-life gym. Both groups used 20 percent of the max weight they had been able to lift, and they had to hold the biceps curls for because long since they could.
The particular data showed that the VR group reported the pain intensity that was 10 percent lower than their peers within the gym. They also had a lower center rate, on three fewer beats each minute, and they were able to maintain lifting pertaining to two mins longer.
A review released in the particular International Record of Environmental Research plus Public Wellness in 2020 analyzed research that experienced evaluated the effectiveness of VR physical exercise and concluded that VR workouts assisted improve physical fitness, muscle strength, and balance.
Tim Donahey, an Ohio-based National School of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer, turned in order to VR health and fitness in August 2016 to help him lose the particular 15 pounds he got gained when he became a father for the first time earlier that year. Chronicling his 50-day bodyweight loss journey on Reddit , Donahey committed in order to one hour associated with VR exercise five days a week as his sole source of physical activity.
“I knew immediately what the benefits were going to end up being — every time I played, it got my heart price up, I was sore afterward, and I could feel the effects on my body, ” he says.
Who Is VR Health and fitness Best For? Will be There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Try It?
VR workouts can be great meant for anyone who enjoys gamified exercises or digital workout classes. They can be ideal for people who aren’t currently physically active (particularly if they find the particular specific VR game or even program they’re using more enjoyable than a traditional workout) or designed for regular fitness center goers who want to supplement their own workout routine, Donahey says.
“It’s the great way for people who hate exercise to get moving and burn some calories from fat while they play, ” he states.
Be conscious of your mobility and fitness levels, though. If you have a medical condition or injury that will may limit your ability to exercise safely, talk in order to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. In that same vein, if you aren’t physically fit, test the waters with all the “easy” setting on whatever game a person play, so that you don’t overstrain your entire body, Bagley says. (You still run the risk of real-life overuse injuries whenever exercising with VR, just as you would with additional sports or even activities. )
Bagley notes that people who aren’t necessarily tech-savvy may need a hand along with setting upward their headset and sport.
And if you tend to struggle with motion sickness, dizziness, or vertigo , start with games with less movement, Bagley states.
Therefore , How Do I Get Started With VR Physical fitness?
Here are a couple of things to consider before getting started with VR fitness:
- There’s an initial investment. VR headsets come at a premium, with the particular Meta Quest 2 (previously the Oculus Quest 2) priced at $299, and the VIVE Pro priced at $599. Games are sold separately. Liteboxer VR has a range associated with free workout routines, but you can also subscribe to brand new workouts just for $18. 99 a month. Games, like Thrill from the Battle and Holopoint, are usually between $10 and $15.
- You may encounter some movement sickness. If you’re sensitive to motion sickness, it’s worth testing out VR physical fitness games in a local electronics store or the friend’s house before investing in all of them yourself, says Stanton. “Some games are high motion, and We wouldn’t recommend those for beginners, ” he states. Others, like Fruit Ninja , might offer a good easier entry point for people who are prone to motion illness, Donahey says.
Here are some tips to obtain you set up to jump into a VR workout routine:
- The first step is buying your own VR head-set. You can use your VR headset for more than just physical exercise, so consider what else you plan to do with this. Factors that might affect which 1 you choose are resolution, pixels, field of view, and price point. If a person plan upon using your own VR head-set for watching blockbuster movies and National Geographic documentaries, for instance, you may want to splurge on the model along with great quality. Overall, though, Stanton states the Meta Quest 2, at less than $300, will get the job done if you want to exercise and binge Netflix shows. Research the games a person plan on playing, too, to make sure they are available upon the headset you intend to buy (not almost all gaming apps are compatible with all VR systems).
- Choose games you’ll have fun actively playing. “Virtual reality fitness will be all regarding you being immersed in the online game so it doesn’t seem like workout, ” Stanton says. With that within mind, test out various online games and make use of free trials before making a purchase. Some video games will have you playing sports, for example rugby, fencing, or boxing, while others are more like an adventure, in which you’ll be dodging and slicing orbs or even fighting monsters.
- Start slow. It’s easy in order to get caught up within a VR fitness game because you’re fully focused on slaying that will dragon or getting to the particular next degree, but Sorensen suggests pacing yourself, especially during your first few workouts. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise for each week. Should you be getting it via VR fitness, that could mean 30 a few minutes of video game play five days per week. Just such as you would when going to the gym, take rest times in between, especially if you’re feeling painful after a workout.