Game Changer: Why VR Fitness is NOT Like Wii or Xbox Fitness


Everybody knows they should work out and eat right. Sadly, very few people do it and even fewer stick to a healthy lifestyle for more than a few months at a time.

The truth is that working out is painful, time-consuming, and usually very boring. We feel great afterward, but the daily grind is too much for most people. Out of shape consumers look for shortcuts like diet pills and infomercial ab exercisers to reach their goals with little or no success.

What if you could make working out as fun and addictive as playing video games? What if working out was something that you truly enjoyed and looked forward to? What if you just finished a workout and started immediately counting down to your next one?

That promising idea seemed to finally be a reality when next-generation video game consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox announced unique controllers and sensing devices that could bring your full body into the game, not just your hands. Games were soon released that could bring your favorite P90X trainer into your home or allow you to play sports and games. Calorie burning would be fun!

The first time playing a game with the Xbox Kinect and seeing your ghosted form flailing around on the screen was a smile-inducing experience. Trying to do the same jumping jacks or dance moves as your on-screen trainer would get your heart rate up as you tried not to accidentally step on your real life puppy.

Unfortunately, after the initial excitement wore off, the fitness video games were relegated to the shelf to gather dust… just like the Bowflex that hasn’t left the garage in years. Don’t throw them away. You’re going to use them again someday, you tell yourself. Uh huh, sure.

In 2017, the Xbox Fitness service was discontinued and Wii fitness games have lost their steam.

It turns out that these exergames and devices didn’t bring the hoped-for fitness results. And now we have the next evolution with virtual reality stepping in for a turn. Right?

VR Fitness is NOT the same.

It’s a mistake to believe that just because previous exergames were based on video game technology that VR fitness is the same thing. VR Fitness is a completely new paradigm that will bring new benefits and capabilities that make all the difference.

How VR Fitness is Similar to Xbox/Wii Fitness

  • Tracks physical movement and form.
  • Utilizes video game technology.
  • Turns exercise into a game with scores and rewards.
  • Guides you through a workout and gives advice.
  • Aims to make working out more fun and interesting.
  • Can be done alone or with friends.
  • Can be done in the privacy of your own home.
  • Can be used by children and adults alike.

So how is VR Fitness different? It all comes down to being INSIDE the game versus watching it on a screen. Virtual reality plays tricks on the brain in very fundamental ways that other experiences simply can’t match.

VR Fitness Benefits Vs. Xbox/Wii Fitness

Fully Immersive

When you put on a VR headset, the 6 Degrees of Freedom tracking capabilities make it feel like you are really there. The game completely surrounds you and responds to your movements just like real-life. The spatial audio makes the sounds coming from objects or other players realistic and multi-dimensional.

If you’ve watched a few VR fail videos, you quickly notice that people do irrational things like jumping away from imaginary dinosaurs, setting their controllers on tables that don’t actually exist, leaning on mountain walls that aren’t there, and running into walls as they forget they are in a small room, not actually in a zombie-infested city.

The rest of the world is blocked out, putting your full attention on what you are doing and what is happening around you.

It turns out that this mind-blowing technology pushes you to do more than you would in a normal gym or with a 2D television screen. It’s way more interesting to your brain, which gets you into the flow state where time slips away. Hysterical strength is activated which pushes you to new levels of effort that normally would not be available to you. It’s a whole new world.

Room-Scale 360

With most Wii/Xbox fitness games, you have to face the screen so that the tracking device can see what you are doing. You are basically a flat object to the system. This is great for jumping jacks or dance moves, but not enough to get you to do all of the basic workout movements.

With high-end VR systems, you can move in any direction and all around the tracked space. The entire room is your play area, and you can look, jump, and dodge any way that you want… just like in real life.

Tracked Arms, Head, and Legs

Millimeter-level accuracy is possible to track the location and position of the headset, the controllers, and coming soon, your legs. Using inverse kinematics, most VR software can then guess where the rest of your body is and what position you are in.

Your full body really is controlling the action.

This makes the tracking way more accurate than the Wii or Xbox, no matter which way you are facing or how fast you are moving. It also doesn’t matter what the other people or pets are doing in the room. Unless you ram into them, your experience won’t be affected.

It’s Truly A Game Changer

The Wii and Xbox made it so that your body could control a video game that you play in the privacy of your own home. Millions of calories were burned, but the key to fitness success isn’t one workout or one month of consistency. It’s a lifetime of regular exercise on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. The vast majority of Wii/Xbox fitness users didn’t get enough motivational value to make it a lifelong habit.

We’re all striving to find a way to make personal fitness something that feels like being on autopilot. We reach our weekly workout goals every week with rare exceptions. Virtual reality brings capabilities to the world that have never existed before, and those technologies are perfectly suited to helping society finally become addicted to fitness activities in a healthy way. We applaud the hardware and software innovators that are bringing VR Fitness to the mainstream!