It’s no wonder I was skeptical when I heard virtual reality was branching out into fitness. When I first heard of virtual reality, I initially thought of it from a gaming perspective—geared toward the “gamer” demographic, especially guys in their teens and early 20s. Combine that with the fact I’ve also heard virtual reality can make people dizzy, and I wasn’t exactly sold.
What I didn’t realize is that virtual reality has come a long way, with improved technology (yep, no dizziness for me) and options that go well beyond video games. Now there are plenty of dynamic virtual reality workouts for people into lots of different types of exercise.
Virtual reality fitness, also called VR fitness, uses technology to immerse users into a new, virtual workout environment: Your body pretty much becomes the controller. That means if your avatar needs to throw some punches in a boxing game, you’ll be doing that in real life too.
As a personal trainer, I was really surprised by not only how much I’ve been loving these workouts, but also how effective they are for me. I’ve realized they have the potential to be a fitness game changer for lots of people, especially those who want to start working out, who may be bored and burned out with the kinds of workouts they’ve been doing, or who want to rebuild their damaged relationships with fitness to focus more on fun.
Because virtual reality fitness does require some equipment, though, it might not be for everyone, especially for those who may have budget constraints. First, you need a headset, which you put on to transport you into that VR environment. I use the Oculus headset ($400, amazon.com), though there are other options like the HTC Vive ($799, amazon.com), the Sony Playstation VR ($600 for a bundle, amazon.com), or the Pansonite 3D VR Headset ($86, amazon.com). Then you buy the fitness games separately, which cost about $20 to $30 apiece. It’s not an easy buy, but if you have the financial wiggle room (and if you are looking to invest in some at-home workout equipment), you may find its benefits warrant the investment.
Although virtual reality fitness will never fully replace my “reality” fitness, it has definitely become a staple to my workouts—and something I end up using most days. Here are the top reasons I’m glad I gave virtual reality workouts a go.
1. I don’t feel like I’m “working out.”
There’s nothing worse than dreading a workout. But virtual reality fitness feels like play, which is something many adults lose as they cross the threshold from childhood. And when something is fun, it becomes sustainable. As soon as I put on my VR headset and hit start, I lose myself in the game and the distraction of staying on task. Yes, I’m sweating through my workout, but I also find myself squealing and laughing like a kid. Every time I take the headset off, I have a big smile on my face and a goofy “Let’s do it again!” comes out of my mouth.?
My favorite virtual reality fitness game right now is FitXR, which offers boxing and dance programs ranging from beginner to advanced workouts. I can box through the sessions with trainer feedback, and work on my punching precision with targets simulating jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. These workouts come in a range of intensities, are taught by a variety of trainers, and vary in length from three minutes all the way up to 60-minute workouts. Sometimes I use these shorter workouts as my warm-up before I lift weights, and other times I’ll go longer for more of a cardio workout.