Virtual Reality (VR) technology has revolutionized the way we experience entertainment and gaming. However, it’s not just limited to leisure activities anymore. In recent years, VR has found its way into the fitness industry, providing an innovative way to exercise and stay healthy. By simulating real-world environments and offering immersive experiences, virtual reality can make workouts more engaging, challenging, and enjoyable.
In this article, we will explore how to use virtual reality to enhance your fitness routine and take your workouts to the next level. We will discuss the benefits of VR in fitness, the types of VR fitness programs available, and how to get started with using VR technology for your workouts. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or someone looking to add some excitement to your exercise routine, read on to learn how VR can transform the way you work out.
Studying the effects of VR on exercise
Matsangidou and colleagues asked 80 participants to perform an isometric bicep curl at 20 percent of their maximum strength and to hold the weight for as long as possible. Of these participants, 40 wore a VR headset and 40 controls were asked to do the same lift but without the headset.
Those who wore the VR headset saw a virtual recreation of the same environment that the control group was in — that is, the same room, decorated in the same way — but they were also able to see a visual representation of their arm holding the weight.
The researchers measured the study participants’ heart rates, time to exhaustion, and private body consciousness — that is, a person’s awareness of their own bodily sensations.
Previous studies have shown that people with a high private body consciousness tend to perceive more pain during exercise, so the researchers wanted to see whether this psychological factor would have any bearing on VR’s effects on exercise.
In this study, the participants were also asked to report their rating of pain intensity and perceived effort.
What Is Augmented Reality?
AR is a type of technology that overlays digital media onto real-world surroundings. It layers images, videos, audio, graphics, or text on top of the physical world that you see through the app or device.
AR is a popular feature found on most smartphones. For example, if you have a Pixel device, you can add 3D characters to your photos or videos using the Playmoji option. Similarly, several mapping, informational, and gaming apps can overlay digital graphics on images captured by your phone’s camera in real time.
One of the most popular examples of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, in which digital Pokemon characters appear through your smartphone’s camera as if they’re in the real world. Unlike virtual reality, AR is not entirely dependent on a computer-generated environment. It enhances the way you perceive the environment around you. That results in some clever uses for health and fitness applications.
How a VR headset can benefit your workout
Overall, the use of VR led to a decrease in pain and effort perception. After 1 minute of holding the weight, the pain intensity reported in the VR group was 10 percent lower than that in the control group.
Also, the VR users lasted for 2 minutes longer, on average, before feeling exhausted and had a three beat-per-minute reduction in heart rate compared with the control group.
Private body consciousness did not dampen the positive effects of using VR during a workout. The researchers are hopeful that VR could be used to encourage people to exercise more.
The study’s lead author comments on the findings, saying, “It is clear from the data gathered that the use of VR technology can improve performance during exercise on a number of criteria.”
The Future of VR and AR in Fitness Apps
VR is emerging as the next big computing and consumer platform, and VR headsets and smart glasses with embedded AR may become as ubiquitous as laptops and smartphones in several years.
Currently, even the best VR headsets on the market are still too heavy to wear for hours. There are also risks to the users’ eyesight and overall balance, motion sickness when a multisensory stimulation goes wrong, and even neck injuries. We may have to wait a few years until manufacturers fix these issues and the headsets look more like regular glasses. Next-generation suits, gloves, and gadgets for more realistic and beneficial experiences are also on the way.
Another major impediment to the broad adoption of VR and AR in fitness and workout is the cost of hardware and software. Besides the headset, consumers may end up buying additional equipment like weights or haptic devices, and finally, they will have to pay for installing the fitness programs. However, the prices are likely to go down gradually, as often happens with electronics.
Together with developments in technology, these factors will pave the way to new possibilities for employing VR in gym, private, and outdoor settings.
The AR glasses industry also develops lighter and user-friendlier models, making it easier to work out while wearing them. These smart glasses and headsets will bridge the gap between gaming and traditional fitness activities. The technologies upon which AR is being built are evolving, and 5G will be a crucial enabler for more efficient outdoor experiences.
Consumers, particularly people who travel frequently, will be able to work out from any place, anytime, without compromising quality and intensity. We can also expect to see more AR-VR in exercise sessions and customized training regimes.
The reach, adoption, and impact of VR will grow as entrepreneurs, developers, and consumers understand and take advantage of its full potential. Soon, we will likely see the rise of fitness studios offering immersive tech-driven approaches to exercise.
The types of exercise available in virtual reality in strength training will proliferate in the months and years to come. App developers will also likely focus on resistance and strength training elements as opposed to the mostly cardiovascular training offered currently.
Simultaneously, research, testing, and rating of VR games will begin, such as measuring the actual calorie expenditure and other KPIs for various games, for the benefit of specialists and consumers interested in obesity prevention, rehabilitation, therapy, etc.
The next step will be the socialization and virtual competitions that may bring about new entertainment industry.
AR can enhance the current fitness trends, enable new exercise modes, and create new sports, involving more people in the fitness movement.