- The wave of VR Fitness
- The many advantages
- Also, some disadvantages
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Companies are merging the addictive qualities and immersion of video games with the health and fitness effects of working out to break the great gym boredom problem.
YOUR GYM IS BORING
Let’s be honest. Your gym is a terribly tedious place. Sitting on a stationary bike or a treadmill is very monotonous and probably the most boring activity. You stare at the bleak walls, or desperately try to avoid making eye contact with neighboring rows of sweating calorie haters. Even with a pair of headphones and a TV screen, gyms don’t make for a very inspiring environment. No wonder many of us skip workouts. Luckily VR is creating new ways for people to get in shape. Companies are merging the addictive qualities and immersion of video games with the health and fitness effects of working out to break the great gym boredom problem.
THE WAVE OF VR FITNESS
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the world of fitness. Wearables that allow us to track our steps and monitor our progress have been at the forefront of this movement but virtual reality is slowly making its way. The rise of VR gear such as the Oculus Rift, Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR, has led to new opportunities in the saturated fitness industry. With Facebook investing over $2 billion dollars in the technology and other companies like Sony and Samsung following suit, it’s expected to become one the most ground-breaking innovations in recent history. While the industry has focused primarily on gaming and entertainment, more and more start-ups are focusing on the fitness applications of VR.
ENJOYMENT & CONVENIENCE
Starting and sticking to a gym routine is one of the hardest habits to create and sustain. On the other hand, video games can be very addictive. The feelings of mastery, control and progress and the bursts of dopamine to our brain keeps us pushing the buttons for more. VR puts the two together, creating a workout that you would never want to quit. VR not only can improve health but also enjoyment which is an essential element for making your workout last. By conceptualizing the exercise, virtual reality results in a more enjoyable experience. You put yourself right into the center of the game instead of a character and use your own body and actual physical fitness to play the game. With VR, the possibilities are endless. You can put on a headset, sit on a stationary bike and ride through any part of the world you desire. Transporting people to a different world helps them to forget the boring basement they are actually in and make them feel that they are actually somewhere having fun.
WITH VR YOU CAN TRAIN FOR LONGER
Not only are VR exercises more engaging, they also lower the perceived level of exertion. VR exerts a dissociative role during exercise, notably distracting the users from exercise-induced pain. The sensory stimulation distracts the user from the exercise intensity, helping you to keep going for longer.
WORKOUT FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME
Furthermore, many of us feel uncomfortable or intimidated by the traditional gym setting. Some people do not like others to watch them while they exercise. This can prevent many people from accomplishing their fitness goals or even attending the gym. Also, many people quit traditional health clubs due to lack of convenience and because they are too busy. VR makes stimulated fitness clubs possible and allows users to workout from the comfort of their own house. Such personal environment can encourage people to try activities that they had not tried before or felt uncomfortable trying at the gym. There’s also the benefit of not having to pay for a membership.
TURN YOUR BIKE INTO A VR MACHINE
With VR anything is possible. Widerun, a California startup, has combined virtual reality with stationary bikes. Widerun allows you to connect your bike to their device, put on your VR headset and cycle through virtual locations. You can travel form American cities to the Alps! The system also provides variable resistance based on the in-game environment, mimicking the difficulty of cycling up hills.
GET FIT WITH A VIRTUAL TRAINER
Runtastic is another one of an ever-growing list of apps aimed at improving indoor workouts through a virtual experience. In their demonstration, a trainer appears in the virtual world and has the user follow the trainer’s workout. Along with a trainer, the app also includes notifications to let the user know if they are doing the exercise correctly. For example, if the trainer has the user doing squats, an indicator light will come on to show you if you squatted far enough.
TRANSFORM ANY CARDIO MACHINE INTO A GAME
There’s also Blue Goji, an Austin-based wellness technology company which turns your cardio exercise machine into a giant game controller. Its product, Goji Play, consists of two straps with buttons that wrap around the handlebars of an elliptical, stepper or stationary bike. The user downloads an app that contains a library of games designed to break away from a monotonous cardio routine. Although originally designed for smartphones, Blue Goji has recently expanded its product into the realm of virtual reality exercise.
WE’RE NOT QUITE THERE YET
VR’s potential to motivate the masses to workout is something really great however there are numerous hurdles to its widespread adoption.
The biggest drawback is that headset technology is still too large and heavy to be suitable for an active workout. Wearing something that bulky while you’re powering through a workout doesn’t sound very appealing. Hygiene is also an issue. It doesn’t take long for things under the headset to get hot and sticky and for the foam borders to get swampy. This can make using a VR headset – and especially sharing one – less than desirable experience.
Although VR is not a new concept, it remains far from mainstream. Like any other new and cool technology, VR faces very high prices. This means the majority of consumers are priced out of the VR market, leaving it accessible to only a few early adopters and some hard-core gamers. Of course, this will change as newer models become more powerful and cheaper to produce. However, we are not quite there yet. These pricey gadgets will continue to be reserved for those with enough disposable income and for most of us, the near future will continue to lie in gyms.
A TOOL FOR THE ANTISOCIAL?
Critics also argue that virtual reality is solitary and reclusive. It is seen by many as antisocial as it secludes people from the real world. However virtual reality environments that are being created are made more and more social. VR spaces are being linked with social media, helping you find new people and play with your friends. Take Holodia as an example. It is a virtual reality rowing system that allows users to train with friends and share their experiences.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
The VR industry is still in its early adoption phase and will certainly take a few more years to overcome the numerous hurdles for it to become truly mainstream. However, VR shows huge promises and endless possibilities. The possibility of cycling across the world without leaving my house definitely appeals to me. In my belief, the future of VR has never been brighter. I’m excited to see what’s next.
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