Maybe it’s because I come from a fitness coaching background, but when people ask me what a good VR fitness game is, I never give them a straight answer. Instead, I usually throw more questions back at them. What are your goals? Are they performance-based – like being able to run a mile without getting winded – or are they physique-based – like losing 10 pounds? Maybe it’s just to be able to play an intense game like The Thrill of the Fight without getting drained?
Virtual reality fitness can accomplish all of these goals, and in fact, a singular routine can do any of them, but what I encourage is taking a thoughtful holistic approach when it comes to designing a routine instead of just one game to suit your needs. Not only will taking a balanced approach be more effective overall, but it will also keep you from getting bored.
To do this, I suggest dividing your VR workout into four parts:
1) The Warm-up
2) Upper Body
3) Lower Body
4) The Cool-down
Upper and Lower-Body Games
Just like when structuring traditional workouts, it makes sense to take advantage of movements that will emphasize all body parts. Not only will this allow you to train your body more evenly overall, but it will enable you to play harder for longer. This means that even after you feel gassed out playing an upper-body game that has you punching and swinging your arms repeatedly, you will still have gas left in the tank to exercise your lower-body muscles. VR games tend to blur the lines a bit more than traditional exercise in that they are usually full-body games, but even these are either more upper or lower-body dominant.
When thinking of upper-body games, look for games that have you punching, swinging, or paddling. Games like Bitslap, The Fastest Fist, or GoalKeepVR are some great upper-body choices. Lower-body games in VR are a little rarer than upper-body ones. Some good choices here are Hot Squat, Holopoint (squatting to dodge), and Unbreakable VR Runner.
10, 15, or 20-minute bouts in these games will sufficiently tax your reflexes and muscles to their fatigue point.
Warm-up and The Cool-down Games
In traditional fitness, the warm-up and cool-down is my least favorite part. Often they feel uninspired and monotonous, like a commercial break during an anticipated television event. Yet, they are essential. Warm-ups gradually prepare your body for an intense bout of activity. They are necessary for avoiding discomforts like cramping or injury like tendonitis but also prime your muscles to give top performance. Cool-downs aid recovery by gradually returning your heart-rate to a resting state – which is vital– and also for maintaining an elevated blood flow to your muscles which deliver oxygen and nutrients to help them to strengthen and avoid soreness afterward.
What’s great about warming up and cooling down in VR is that it circumvents the tedium that’s usually associated with them. It’s just playing more fun games, but at a lower intensity level than the meat and potatoes of the upper and lower-body centric games. The warm-up game should also be something that will prime you for your upper-body game. That could be either something like The Lab’s Longbow, Racket: NX, or Audioshield on a more moderate difficulty setting. The cooldown can be those or something more lower-body centric, like Space Pirate Trainer or Superhot.
Warm-up and cool-down games should last 5-10 minutes.
Putting It All Together
Select your titles. A valuable tool for finding games is the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise’s VR Ratings. This ranks games based on their intensity levels comparable to their equivalent exercise activities, ranging from walking to sprinting. Once you know what you’ll play, either set yourself a timer, or use the SteamVR playlist builder to cycle your games automatically, and decide how long you want your workout to last. Here are some templates.
30 Minute VR Workout
Warm-Up: 5 Minutes
Upper-Body: 10 Minutes
Lower-Body: 10 Minutes
Cool-Down: 5 Minutes
45 Minute VR Workout
Warm-Up: 5 Minutes
Upper-Body: 15 Minutes
Lower-Body: 15 Minutes
Cool-Down: 10 Minutes
60 Minute VR Workout
Warm-Up: 10 Minutes
Upper-Body: 20 Minutes
Lower-Body: 20 Minutes
Cool-Down: 10 Minutes
How are you putting these suggestions to work for you? What are your favorite titles to warm-up/cool-down with, or that give you the best upper/lower workout? Let us know in the comments below!