With the ubiquity of fitness games on the market, you might be wondering if the gym is obsolete. Why spend a hefty monthly sum on membership fees when you could be burning calories while you play?
The same could be said of jogging; why invest in decent running shoes when you can sweat just as easily wearing one of the best VR headsets? Before you leave the gym or sell your trainers, however, there are some things you can only achieve through conventional fitness. While VR can provide great aerobic exercise, you’re unlikely to gain much strength or find yourself marathon ready after a few months. The game is not there yet.
Let’s not completely neglect virtual reality, because as we should all know, exercise is more than just training for an event or getting our body in shape. It’s a way to get our mind in shape.
If we exercise regularly, we are more likely to sleep, less likely to be stressed, and better equipped to face our daily trials. But the idea of ”exercise” sounds like a slog to many of us. After hours of work, caring for children, and dealing with the stresses of life, it’s counterproductive to push yourself even harder. According to us, our relaxation time consists of doing things that we really enjoy, such as reading, watching television, playing video games…
…this is where virtual reality comes in handy; a way of playing where we use more than our thumbs. Because we’re always playing, racking up points, and beating our opponents, it won’t feel like the drudgery of exercising.
Let’s watch Beat Saber (opens in a new tab), a rhythm game released by Czech developer Beat Games in 2019. Fans of Just Dance and Guitar Hero will understand the format; a stream of incoming shapes that represent a move, or combination of moves, in sync with the music, for the player to perform.
Beat Saber is particularly exciting because the virtual world allows us to dance with lightsabers – something we never thought we would do in our lifetime. Helmet on, motion controller in each hand, but in the virtual world we duel lightsabers like Anakin at the end of Attack of the Clones, as we weave our way through incoming color blocks. We actually ranked Beat Saber as our top pick of the best VR fitness apps and games earlier this year, so you should definitely check it out.
Pistol Whip is another great rhythm game. (opens in a new tab). It combines rhythm with shooting; you navigate a violent world by blasting bad guys like John Wick. While the shooting doesn’t seem particularly taxing on the cardio system, it’s the dodging that gets you off. When dodging bullets (like another Keanu Reeves character), the amount of squats and lunges is insane.
If music and rhythm aren’t your thing, and you’re more of a muscular type, then we recommend the Ridiculously Fun Horn. It’s a gladiator sim with such over-the-top violence you’ll laugh while sweating. Finding yourself in an arena much like Maximus in the 2000 film, you face off against many opponents with any weapon you can find, or with your bare hands. Using the latter, it must be said, you can lift your opponent and physically rip their arm, leg, or head off. While it’s not for everyone, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can make a great workout out of it if you have the space.
There are also VR games that aim to get you in shape. One would think that this genre defies the purpose of accidental exercise through gaming. But if we take a closer look, these titles are more than just fitness routines in game form. Ring shaped adventure and Sports Wii before that, many of them are visual delights with smooth gameplay and an addictive gamified system.
FitXr (opens in a new tab) is, in our opinion, the best option if you want a variety of workouts and a lot of fun. What separates VR workouts like this and a Joe Wicks routine is the fact that we’re in a virtual world and the laws of physics don’t apply. In one of the routines of FitXr, we find ourselves hitting incoming blocks, dodging under ledges, and dodging other obstacles – all while being accompanied by an encouraging personal trainer and a punchy soundtrack. This weird, wacky world is unlike any training class in the physical world, because, well, that’s not physically possible there. If you can name a training class that incorporates crushing incoming debris like the Hulk, or dodging like Spiderman, we’ll be impressed.
What we get from games like this that we don’t get from the gym is kept on our toes by testing our reaction times. In the gym, we might sit on the bench between sets, pull out our phone, open up social media, and unintentionally scroll through ten minutes of workout time. It is a common phenomenon. Even with cardio machines, it’s possible to slip into a daydream as we half-heartedly walk, cycle or row in the same kind of direction we scroll on our phones — a vague nowhere, with no clear goal or end.
To answer the question of whether VR fitness can replace the gym? – as you have seen, it depends on what you are looking for. We can’t guess where VR fitness will be in a few years, but, right now, the gym is the only place for some type of strength training. There’s also the social side of all the fitness classes you might attend and you might be one of those legendary humans who really loves the gym.
But if you’re itching to get out of breath, get your heart rate up, and get those feel-good chemicals working in your brain, you could be doing a lot worse than virtual reality. In fact, it’s one of the most exciting ways to do it.
If you’re looking to enhance your VR fitness experience, check out our list of the best VR fitness accessories to make your virtual workout more comfortable and rewarding. We are also exploring other areas where virtual reality could change our lives,
like in this article about the possibility of working in VR?