Virtual reality is changing our approach to fitness and weight loss. Whether someone is currently a sedentary, middle-aged person with back problems or a healthy 30-year-old who runs marathons, it’s possible for anyone to use VR as a tool for better health.

Recently I spoke with some developers, promoters, and enthusiasts to see how they planned to incorporate virtual reality into their personal fitness routines as part of an overall healthy lifestyle throughout the year. Their responses reflect the universal appeal of VR as it offers something for everyone. Take a look at their suggestions as you develop your personal VR fitness plan.

Find inspiration

While gaming previously might have allowed people to neglect a fitness routine, virtual reality does just the opposite. It encourages us to find inspiration in immersive environments – appealing to our natural love of music, movies, physical activity, etc.

“Virtual reality has opened up the potential for those like myself who find themselves leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle,” says JustJohn, gamer and Twitch streamer.

He finds inspiration “through games like Beat Saber, Echo VR, RecRoom, or Sprint Vector” because it’s “easier to find the motivation to keep active through gaming instead of plain exercise throughout the year.”

Dan Foltz, another gamer and Twitch streamer, takes a similar approach. When seeking inspiration, it’s good to focus on things that already naturally appeal to us. Since he already has a love for the Creed movies, he plans to use Creed: Rise to Glory as part of his 2019 exercise routine. His goals will be easier to achieve because he will be immersing himself in a storyline he already finds fascinating.S

Push Yourself

There are numerous games or experiences for the casual gamer, but if you want to use virtual reality as part of a fitness routine, you’ll need to find activities that require more movement and increase your heart rate.

Ragesaq, a popular Twitch streamer and game reviewer, had this to say about using VR for fitness. “I have been seeing big benefits with Beat Saber for my health and fitness where I lost 20 pounds and greatly improved my endurance under high intensity in 2018. I plan on continuing that in 2019 to keep myself in shape.”

“I will probably go for Creed and Beat Saber,” says Alex Rozenberg, founder of VRality, home of the team that won the VAL season 1 Skyfront tournament. Rozenberg recognizes the importance of the high impact games for fitness and says he also plans to incorporate “Sprint Vector for one hour twice a week.”

Sometimes it can help to push ourselves with others. Simeon Kelly, a member of the VR League season 2 Echo Arena grand champion team Eclipse, uses VR regularly.

“I incorporate VR into cardio three nights a week with scrims against top Echo teams.” By playing against other top players and teams, Kelly is able to challenge himself personally. The team benefits as well as they practice strategies against other advanced teams.

Joe Gabriel, CCO of the Virtual Athletics League, says he plans on using BoxVR for fitness in 2019 because he gets “a better workout with that than with anything else.” Reflecting the thoughts of many of us who use VR for fitness, he adds that “it feels good to punch things.”

You can now kick drunk people in the face. Credit: The Munky

Switch it Up

Challenge your body physically and mentally by trying different experiences or making adjustments to your regular VR fitness routine.

VRFI shares game reviews regularly. Incorporate some of these new games into your workout routine each week for variety. Playing different games will keep your routine interesting and it encourages use of different muscle groups. You might be surprised at how it can enhance your workout. If you play two hours of an archery game such as In Death, for example, be prepared for some sore arms the next morning!

You might also try adding a weighted vest to your routine. I don’t recommend ankle weights and I would highly discourage anyone from using wrist weights in VR, but a weighted vest can add a challenge to your workout.

Experienced gamer Disratory plays different games and stays physically active to give his fitness routine variety. He lost 10 pounds playing Pavlov and he continues to use several different techniques to stay active while he plays.

“When Standout gave an incentive to use FitRun by allowing players to increase their run speed by doing squats and running around in real life, it was a lot of fun and quite demanding physically” because it was basically like doing bodyweight squats for 60 minutes straight.

Flex Mental Muscles

Although the activity encourages physical fitness, Disratory also uses VR games as a form of mental fitness. He explains that some games, like Beat Saber, force you to “perform mental gymnastics” as you keep your mind free-flowing because if you don’t focus on the task at hand, it “will result in a loss of rhythm and flow in the game.”

Learn to Relax

While physical activity and mental stimulation are essential to overall health, it’s also important to know when to relax.

Most of us enjoy the games in virtual reality and while more active games are perfect for weight loss, a good cardio workout, or general fitness, there are experiences designed to help our bodies unwind.

John Ballard, director of technology at Asterion, uses Satori Sounds for daily meditation.

“I find total being totally immersed in VR is a game changer in meditation,” he says. “It allows you to get past your own internal dialog much faster than without it. It has more value than a nap, in my opinion.”

Set Goals

Finally, although playing games in VR is probably the most fun many of us have ever had while striving to achieve better health, it’s still wise to set goals so you stay on track toward your personal fitness objectives.

Some people might prefer to work out for a specified period of time. Or there might be other goals that work better for you.

“To stay motivated,” states Gabriel Moss, VR enthusiast and writer, “I’ll begin streaming on Twitch more often.” Although he plans to play more Beat Saber and The Thrill of the Fight, it doesn’t really matter what he plays as long as he sticks with his goal of streaming his sessions. Once he establishes that habit, it will be easier to accomplish the overall goal of more exercise.

Don’t be afraid to set lofty goals either. When Bygrace began using virtual reality in April 2016, he immediately recognized the potential benefits. At that time he weighed over 380 pounds.

“I began exercising with games like Audioshield and Holopoint,” he says. “Since that time, I have been doing daily boxing / cardio routines for 25 to 35 minutes a day.”

His current lineup of games includes Beat Saber, Sound Boxing, and Creed. He explains that “these games are a ton of fun and help motivate me to workout daily.”

Since he began using VR for exercise and making healthier food choices, he has lost 80 pounds. He set a goal to change his lifestyle and he did. His current goal is to lose another 80 pounds.

Virtual reality has certainly revolutionized fitness. Getting fit doesn’t need to involve diet pills or torturous runs at 5 a.m. in the freezing cold. We can use virtual reality as a healthy, more appealing path to better physical and mental health.