Haven’t you always wanted the gym to feel like a breeze? If a treadmill or weight rack just isn’t passing the time, then “gamified” VR workouts might be just the thing for you. With the trend of virtual reality taking off into the stratosphere of popularity it’s only natural that it also wades into the realm of health and fitness. While new games are coming out all the time for VR headsets, there are a few that will not only make it feel like you are immersed in a game but you’ll be breaking a sweat without even realizing it.
Matthew Farrow, a health researcher at the University of Bath in the UK, conducted one of several studies that show enjoyment and intensity of exercise increase when someone is playing a game in VR. The game used in Farrow’s study challenged players to cycle along a road while avoiding trucks and police cars. It also placed a “ghost” version of a player in the game that indicated their previous performance, allowing them to race against themselves. The study found that players worked 9 percent harder, without their motivation decreasing.
If you’re just starting to get moving, the key is to pick an exercise that can become a routine. Worry less about how many calories you are burning per minute and more about what you enjoy enough to keep doing it. This way VR workout games become one of the best ways to consistently make room for exercise in your daily life because you’ll actually enjoy it!
The Best VR Workout Games
Holopoint is a perfect game if you are looking to break a sweat with your HTC Vive. While you’re mostly standing in one spot on offense, on defense, you’ll be ducking and dodging and doing all kinds of maneuvers. This is a game that will benefit tremendously from the arrival of wireless adapters.
The only word of warning with this game is it will get you hot and sweaty in no time. In fact, this game might be better as an entertaining exercise routine than an actual game. It will probably give you a better workout than almost any other Vive game.
One of the best aspects of VR gaming is the chance to put ourselves into the shoes of someone facing extreme danger and to walk away from the harrowing experience completely unscathed. Such is the case with Thrill of the Fight. In this game, you get to step into the shoes of an up and coming boxer and try to work your way up the ranks.
In real life, taking punches like this could be extremely hazardous to your health, but in VR it’s a ton of fun. Well, at least it’s a ton of fun until either you have to stop because you’re sweating like a pig, or your arms are dead tired and you can hardly lift them up. Both situations happened to me while playing this game, but I keep coming back and firing the game up. However, you do it with the knowledge that you’re also going to get a workout in.
Sprint Vector is an “adrenaline platformer” racing game that relies upon a unique locomotion technique of swinging your arms in order to run through an obstacle course. It is packed with a light-hearted stylized art aesthetic that has a mash-up of a game show, extreme sports, and a competitive racing game with a Sonic-inspired obstacle course. It’s also a unique combination of active exercise and embodied and abstracted gameplay mechanics.
Racket Fury is a game that will give you a proper workout while improving your table tennis game. You can either practice or play any of the four-tournament cups currently available. Each tournament starts with an easy robot as your opponent. As you keep winning, harder robots will take its place at the other end of the table.
You can get a decent cardio and upper body workout while playing Racket Fury. This game is available on all major VR platforms.
Audioshield is a fast-paced game that is literally based on the music that is playing. Each note will come rushing at you, and you’ll have to punch your way through them. The results are fantastic.
AudioShield has its own tracks, or you can load up your favorite music. While you can go easy on the punches to get each note, the game will register the force you use. This means if you really start to swing, you’ll score higher.
Sword Master VR is an adrenaline-inducing first-person sword combat game that puts the players in the middle of an army of enemies and equips them with a sword and a shield. The players will have to hack and slash their way through the different enemies.
Using the sword to slash and the shield to block your enemies will work out the player’s upper body while dodging, squatting, and lunging will work their lower body. The VR Institute of Health and Exercise rates this game as equivalent in difficulty to using an elliptical machine. Sword Master VR can be played on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Soundboxing is a music rhythm game very similar to Audioshield. The big difference with Soundboxing, is that you make user-created beat-maps to play, or you play previously created beat-maps by other players. The game works with YouTube in such a way, that it allows you to search for just about any song in existence, and then create a special beat-map for it. You can also search through already existing beat-maps and try those.
Beatmap creation can be quite fun, but it’s also a very tiring process. You’re literally punching into thin air to make the beat-maps. In fact, Soundboxing is probably one of the better exercise games out there.
The game allows the players to perform pro-level moves in a more productive way. It involves the performance of more intense gestures that work on the upper body. You’re equipped with a shield and you can trigger amazing gymnastics. The best way of playing the game is with a friend or opponent. Sparc holds the VR competitive award for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC live.
The aim of the game is to hit your opponent with balls of energy but you’ll need to ricochet off of walls and use angles to your advantage if you want to get past their shield. Once you get the hang of things you’ll be blocking projectiles, dodging incoming attacks and throwing your own ball. The competitive feel will definitely give you a workout for your upper body and cardio.
The Hot Squat requires the player to perform as many squats as possible. Get into the challenging environment and prove you’re better than them. You have to compete against friends and the world to get the highest count.
While everything looks pretty basic, you can be sure the game will deliver the maximum heart rate. Unlike other VR fitness games, Hot Squat has no end- you’ll always have a challenge.
Adding Weight To Your VR Fitness Experience
A Word on Wrist & Ankle Weights
The mechanics of extra weight on the end of your arm just end up pulling on your joints and tendons when you stop your punch at the end of the motion. This can end up straining your tendons in your arms and shoulders.
What might be a good alternative, however, is using ankle weights. Giving your legs a little resistance as you move would be a great way to add a few extra torched calories to your workout. Just remember to bench the ankle weights if the game has excessive kicking as the same problem of overextension might arise but with ankles and knees.
Boosting Your VR Workout With Weighted Vests
The vest keeps the additional resistance close to the core, near your center of gravity, making it much easier to maneuver without throwing you off balance. This provides a very stable base for the variety of movements that VR can elicit.
Adding a vest will also help maintain proper body alignment, so the impact forces that are applied to the connective tissues of the hips, knees, and ankles are delivered in a manner that they are positioned to absorb. This keeps the likelihood of injury very low. A nice medium-weighted vest around 15 pounds would be a good place to start.
Now it’s time to have fun and burn some calories!