We all want to start and stick to a regular workout program. Whether it’s running every morning or making it to the gym after work, we have high hopes that this time we will be consistent and follow through with our fitness plans.
But then we don’t.
A few days or weeks go by and we start to fall off of our routine and our fitness dreams are shoved into the back of the garage along with our barely used treadmill.
It’s not totally our fault. Creating any type of new habit is hard for dozens of valid reasons. Creating a habit for something that is time consuming, painful, boring and with little short-term rewards is especially difficult.
Other habits like smoking, gambling, refreshing social media, and video games are almost too easy to create, so much so that we have to actively fight to be sure we don’t get sucked in. The reason? These activities reach into our brain’s reward system and give us little dopamine hits that make us want to do them over and over. In some cases, people ruin their entire lives because they can’t stop.
Wouldn’t it be great if fitness habits were that easy to create?
What if we had to actively stop ourselves from eating too many good vegetables or hitting the gym too many times in a week? That’s the opportunity for the VR Fitness industry. If we can use our new immersive capabilities to make exercise nearly as rewarding and addictive as video games and casinos, the world will be a much healthier place and millions of lives will be improved. Here’s how.
Casinos are Addiction Machines
Casino owners have spent decades learning how to get people to put in one more dollar, play at the table for one more hour, and come back one more time. Let’s learn from their experience and apply their techniques to help people reach their important fitness goals.
Casino Trick #1 – No Clocks or Windows
Casino operators want you to get lost in your activity so you play for as long as possible. If you are watching a clock or noticing how it’s starting to get dark outside, you will be more conscious of the amount of time you have been there. They know that every extra minute they can get you to gamble, the more money they will make from you.
Traditional workouts are the opposite. The clock is front and center and constantly, SLOOOOOWLY counting down until this horrible torture will end. It’s almost impossible not to focus on the amount of time that has passed but we all try to distract ourselves from it.
With VR experiences, we can get them to focus on the pleasurable parts of the experience and put them into a state of flow. Time will seem to speed up and their workout will be over before they know it.
Remove the clock and put the focus on the activity. Time flies when you are having fun.
Casino Trick #2 – Bet with Chips, not your Hard-Earned Cash
Using chips instead of cash removes a lot of the psychological pain of losing or risking your money. When you lose, you lost some colorful plastic chips and not the crisp hundred dollar bills that they represent. Chips are an abstract way to represent money which has been proven to get gamblers to spend more.
We can do the same thing with VR Fitness. Most people have an automatic negative reaction to words like “workout” and “exercise”. No matter how hard you try to tell people that it will be “fun!”, they just don’t believe you. A workout means exhaustion, effort, and pain, almost by definition. Years of association have taught most people to have an aversion to it.
Make it a point not to use words like workout, exercise, sets, reps, and cardio. Abstract the idea of exercise and instead turn it into something else! You wouldn’t say you were “going to workout” when you are planning a day on the ski slopes or grabbing your surfboard on the way to the beach. Getting fitness results should almost feel like a side effect of the fun VR game they play every day for 30 minutes at a time, not the primary reason for doing it. Otherwise, the majority of people will naturally avoid your product.
Casino Trick #3 – Highlight the Positive, Downplay the Negative
When you walk into a casino, it feels like everybody is winning. The sights and sounds around you are full of bells, whistles, and cheering.
A slot machine makes loud, positive noises when somebody wins, even if it’s a small amount. You just won one dollar? DING DING DING! You didn’t win anything? *crickets* You’ll never hear a loud, losing sound coming from any machine.
At a craps table, when the crowd loses, they usually sulk quietly and reach down for another bet. But when they win big? They erupt with cheers that can be heard around the entire casino. Look, there’s another winner over there!
In a traditional gym, there are almost no immediate rewards. Pain and discomfort are all you get, at least until the end when you can feel good about yourself for completing your workout. Every member around you is grunting, groaning and grimacing.
We can learn from casinos in VR Fitness apps by rewarding the player for defeating a level, breaking a record, earning a new item, or pushing extra hard to solve the puzzle with their bodies as the controllers. We can give them positive sights and sounds as well as awards like stars, coins, or items. When the user doesn’t “win”, they won’t get as many rewards, but we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it or punish them. There are a no failures when it comes to exercise. Showing up is a win by itself!
Of course, the physical rewards that you want come much later and are barely visible on a per workout basis (or invisible if you are trying to prevent diabetes or live longer). This a major reason that fitness is a hard habit to create. VR lets us get around this with immediate, exciting rewards in your game world.
It’s Our Turn
Can you imagine how great it would be if bad habits like playing slot machines, binging on Netflix, or constantly trying to defeat the next level of Candy Crush somehow improved your body and fitness levels? That’s our opportunity.
VR Fitness takes advantage of entirely new immersive technologies that make it possible for the first time in history. I can’t wait to see your innovations in the next few years.