Not only is the cold season now underway in the States; many of us are bored and lonely in the wake of the second wave of lockdowns and the continuing effort to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic in our homes.
The above is especially troubling given that we’re in the midst of the holiday season. The holidays are already a rough time of year to be alone, but making things worse is the fact that gyms are also starting to shut down again. It’s already easy to fall off of your fitness regimen when gyms close, so what are you to do?
In fact, you can train in VR as you would in a gym (just look at studies produced by the VR Institute of Health and Exercise), and the best part is that you can always switch up your routine to keep things interesting.
VR fitness has something for everybody, whether you want to box, dance, fence, do yoga, or go on an adventure in games like Asgard’s Wrath and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, where you can put those skills to the test. Not to mention, a VR headset makes a fantastic holiday gift! As long as you stick to a VR fitness regimen that challenges you, you will eventually see results.
If you’re still not sold, you can check out tons of testimonials we’ve recorded from folks who’ve accomplished impressive fitness feats in VR.
Whether you’re looking for the right VR headset for a family member, or you’re interested in getting into VR fitness for yourself, this VR Fitness Insider 2020 Holiday Gift Guide will make your last-minute holiday shopping far smoother and easier. Let’s get started!
Recommended VR Headsets & Hardware
Oculus Quest 2
The Oculus Quest 2 is the most sought-after VR headset you can get. It’s standalone, meaning that it’s completely wireless and works entirely on its own without any extra hardware needed.
The best part of the deal is the low entry price. While most other VR headsets still cost in the ballpark of $500 or more, the Oculus Quest 2 starts at $300 for its 64 GB edition. That’s a great starting point, but for $400 you can get the 256 GB version which is able to store even more apps and games — this is critical because the Oculus Quest 2 does not accept any kind of external storage.
Not to mention, this headset packs in some serious power. It features a near-4k resolution at 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, runs at framerates up to 90hz (making it smoother than the Oculus Rift S and PSVR), comes with Wifi-6 for faster internet connectivity, and features the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform that offers a hefty performance boost; granting over twice the CPU and GPU power that existed in the original Oculus Quest.
Unlike older VR headsets, the Oculus Quest 2 contains four inside-out cameras attached to its front panel that can track your controllers and even your hands in any well-lit physical environment, meaning you can walk around anywhere without additional setup. It’s neat that you can even double-tap the side of the device to unlock Passthrough+, a feature that lets you see the world around you from inside of the VR headset.
Finally, it retains the ability to be plugged into a gaming PC with Oculus Link, making it the most versatile VR headset as you can play both standalone Oculus Quest games and games in the expansive SteamVR and Oculus Rift libraries, such as Half-Life: Alyx and Asgard’s Wrath.
Note that the Oculus Quest 2 does require a Facebook account to sign in any time you’d like to use your device. Visit our Oculus Quest 2 Buyer’s Guide for more information!
Buy your Oculus Quest 2 directly from Facebook or at any of these select retailers:
Newegg Oculus Quest 2 64 GB – $300
Newegg Oculus Quest 2 256 GB – $400
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is quite fantastic as an affordable, easy to set up, and highly accessible PC VR headset. Unlike the Oculus Quest 2, this one does require the use of a gaming PC and it does need at least one free USB 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 connection on your PC so you can hook it in.
Like the Quest 2, the Rift S is covered in cameras that allow for inside-out tracking, meaning that you don’t have to hook up any external cameras or base stations to make the headset work. You can also use Passthrough to look around your real-world environment.
The Oculus Rift S library is robust, but you can play your Rift S with SteamVR games as well — including games like Half-Life: Alyx and Skyrim VR. The cool thing about the Oculus Rift S is its halo-ring design that offers incredible amounts of comfort as it wraps around your head during use.
The Rift S outputs a display of 2,560 x 1,440, offering 1,080 x 1,200 pixel displays in each eye. The total refresh rate here is markedly lower, topping out at only 80 Hz. Regardless, at the affordable price of $400, it’s still a great choice for VR fitness gaming and especially for PC VR gaming.
Note that the Oculus Rift S requires a Facebook account to sign in any time you’d like to use your device.
Buy your Oculus Rift S directly from Facebook or at any of these select retailers:
Amazon Oculus Rift S – $400
Best Buy Oculus Rift S – $400 or $33.25/mo financing
Walmart Oculus Rift S – $400
Valve Index is the top-of-the-line PC VR headset that offers both the best controllers and the most versatile display. Like the Oculus Rift S, you’ll need access to a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.2 connection on your PC. Unlike the aforementioned Oculus headset, the Valve Index uses outside-in rather than inside-out tracking.
This means that the Valve Index uses base stations placed around your play area to track the movement of your headset and controllers, making your movements way more accurate but at the cost of freedom; you cannot take your Valve Index and play with it wherever you’d like at any time.
However, what you get here with the Valve Index is a much more comfortable headset with a much wider range of display options and some of the coolest VR controllers we’ve ever seen. The display, which is made up of two 1440×1600 LCD screens (one per eye) can switch between 80 Hz, 90 Hz, 120 Hz, or 144 Hz refresh rates, which makes the Index not only visually crisp but also buttery smooth. The faster refresh rates mean that the gameplay looks and feels much more realistic as well.
The Valve Index controllers are masterful in their design. Shaped to fit your hands inside, the frame of the Valve Index controllers makes VR fighting and boxing games feel completely seamless.
Valve Index has an MSRP of $1000, but it’s quite difficult to find one at that price. You can look for a Valve Index at any of these select retailers:
Valve Index Kit – $1000
Amazon Valve Index Kit – $2200*
- – At the time of this article’s release, this item is sold at an extreme markup that does not reflect MSRP.
PlayStation VR (PSVR)
The PlayStation VR headset is the last on our list of recommended VR headsets. Based on the name, you can figure out that it requires a PlayStation to run off of. In this case, either PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 will suffice. And while it remains one of the most accessible VR headsets you can buy because it doesn’t require a PC, it also offers its own catalog of great games like Blood & Truth and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission.
The PSVR display is a single screen that displays a per-eye resolution of 1080 x 960 pixels. Its base refresh rate is 60 Hz, but the PS4 and PS5 use something called ‘reprojection’ to double that to about 120 Hz. The ‘Move’ controllers used for fitness games on the PSVR are a bit outdated but still perfectly usable in popular fitness games like Beat Saber and BoxVR.
Two things you may want to be wary of here are the PSVR’s tracking style and the overall lack of variety in fitness games. The PSVR relies on an outside-in tracking style that only uses a single PlayStation Camera which you’d generally place on top of the TV set you’ve plugged your PS4 or PS5 into. As a result, it only does forward-facing tracking, which means you can only play games where you’re facing a single direction — there are no room-scale VR games on the PSVR as there are on the other headsets. As a result, there is only a limited selection of fitness games on the PSVR altogether.
Regardless, PSVR is still a fine choice if you want to use VR on your PlayStation console, if you want to tap into those PlayStation-exclusive VR games, if you don’t want to pay for a more expensive gaming PC and PC VR setup, or if you don’t want to pay for a Facebook-sponsored headset like the Oculus Quest 2. You can usually find a PSVR bundle that includes the required PlayStation Camera and two PlayStation Move controllers going for around $350.
Buy your PSVR bundle at any of these select retailers:
Amazon PSVR Iron Man Bundle – $350
Target PSVR Iron Man Bundle – $350
Recommended VR Games
Beat Saber is the classic Jedi-themed rhythm game that has you slashing colored boxes to the beat of music. It’s a fantastic aerobic cardio game that also exercises those fine motor skills in your arms as you often need to slash with precision on the harder Expert+ levels. It’s also great for your legs and your core.
Beat Saber SteamVR – $30
Beat Saber Oculus Rift – $30
Beat Saber Oculus Quest – $30
Beat Saber PSVR – $30
Superhot VR is the quintessential action-adventure game that takes you through a tunnel of Matrix-inspired combat scenarios where you must engage incoming foes with any weapons at your disposal — including your fists.
The twist here is that time only moves when you move, making it important for you to slow down your movements and maintain unusual or challenging body positions (like in yoga!) while assessing how to handle the next few moments of gameplay. This means that playing Superhot VR for long periods can potentially do wonders for your core muscles.
Superhot VR SteamVR – $25
Superhot VR Oculus Rift – $25
Superhot VR Oculus Quest – $25
Superhot VR PSVR – $25
Creed: Rise to Glory
Step into the shoes of Adonis Creed and go to town as a boxing superstar legend. You can train inside of famous gyms like the historical Front Street Gym in Philadelphia alongside the legendary Rocky Balboa.
Though the action here is arcade-focused given that there’s a stamina mechanic where your virtual character’s stamina runs out before your real-life stamina runs out, there are some impressive training minigames here; when you’re not busy in the ring, you can punch a fast bag, run on a treadmill, and dodge a punching ball.
Creed SteamVR – $30
Creed Oculus Quest – $30
Creed Oculus Rift – $30
Creed PSVR – $30
Thrill of the Fight
Thrill of the Fight is the most hardcore VR boxing sim we’ve come across so far. The focus here is less on story (as in Creed) and much more on simulating each fight with precision.
Thrill of the Fight is extremely challenging and offers little to no feedback on how you’re doing, aside from visible spurts of blood dripping down your opponent’s face as you wear them down in battle. Knocking out an opponent can feel almost impossible until you learn their fighting style and adapt with your own physical movements.
Holopoint is a wonderful archery game that offers some truly difficult challenges as enemies and targets appear in every direction in a 360-degree radius. This works your heart, as you’ll spend a lot of time ducking and dodging attacks that come from all directions while quickly nocking arrows into your bow.
Holopoint SteamVR – $15
Holopoint Oculus Quest – $15
OhShape is a dancing game with a twist. It’s all about positioning your body into specific ‘shapes’ so as to fit through gaps in a wall that is fast closing in on you. Once you get into it, this extremely choreographed dancing game can push every muscle in your body.
OhShape SteamVR – $20
OhShape Oculus Quest – $20
OhShape Oculus Rift – $20
Supernatural VR is the premium VR workout game in our rotation. Unlike everything else on our list, however, you need to pay a monthly subscription fee ($19 per month) to use the service. But that cost comes with some serious benefits, as Supernatural offers tons of new workouts each day, constantly updating soundtracks, a direct connection to Apple Health, and one-on-one coaching by real coaches in virtual reality.
Supernatural VR Oculus Quest – $19/monthly after free trial
FitXR (formerly known as BoxVR) is our fitness boxing sim of choice. It comes with a variety of handcrafted VR fitness boxing workouts, packs a bangin’ soundtrack, and even teaches high-intensity dance routines. FitXR offers some of the most challenging aerobics sessions I’ve faced in VR.
FitXR Oculus Quest – $30
BoxVR SteamVR – $30
BoxVR Oculus Rift – $30
BoxVR PSVR – $30
Pistol Whip channels the same Matrix vibes as Superhot VR but with a completely different twist. Instead of fighting through levels in slow motion, you instead have to dance and shoot your way through a long corridor filled with obstacles.
The challenge here is that you duck and dodge enemy bullets while returning fire and avoiding obstacles all at the same time. Pistol Whip is the type of VR fitness game that can make you do tons of squats and lunges all in a matter of seconds without you even really noticing.
Pistol Whip SteamVR – $25
Pistol Whip Oculus Rift – $25
Pistol Whip Oculus Quest – $25
Until You Fall
Until You Fall is a rogue-lite action-adventure game that makes you move your whole body. As you venture through its distinct neon-colored world, you engage in deep melee weapon combat that offers a distinct challenge.
Unlike other VR games that offer swordplay, Until You Fall requires you to parry and dodge at just the right times to make your attacks count. This sometimes means you will need to squat and duck in order to stay alive, and the combined activity of virtual swordplay and real aerobics makes a great (and addictive) cardio workout.
Until You Fall SteamVR – $25
Synth Riders is a dance rhythm game where you stretch out your limbs and ride the waves to the flow of the music. You need a big playspace to truly appreciate this game, but it’s a great way to build flexibility and release tension at the end of a longer play session with other games. Also, being a dance game, it’s great for your cardio fitness.
Synth Riders SteamVR – $25
Synth Riders Oculus Rift – $25
Recommended VR Accessories
In order to keep sweat and oil from mucking up your headset, we recommend always using a VR Cover on your headset’s faceplate. These are usually absorbent and, at the very least, they provide a cushion for your face to sit comfortably inside of the headset. They’re also simple to set up and easy to wash, making them an ideal gift for any VR fan.
Weighted fitness gear like weighted vests, ankle weights, and wrist weights add resistance to your aerobic VR exercise. In doing so, you can tune up the potential fitness benefit of any game you play by making your heart pump harder and making your muscles work harder to sustain the extra weight. These can be dangerous when handled improperly, so take the right precautions!
Fitness trackers let you keep track of your fitness progress, even in VR. The best fitness tracker is the one that you can afford, but some fitness trackers like the Apple Watch offer more bells and whistles. Check out our list of budget fitness trackers for more info!
KAT loco S
KAT loco S (MSRP $200) is a device that lets you walk or run in place to move through a VR world. This is especially helpful in large-scale VR games like Skyrim VR or Half-Life: Alyx, which feature larger worlds where artificial thumbstick movement rarely feels natural. There’s something deeply satisfying about achieving cardio fitness while going on a jog through City 17 or running through the world of Tamriel (in Skyrim), which is why the KAT loco S makes our list.
Natural Locomotion ($10) is our favorite SteamVR app to turn virtually any SteamVR game into a great exercise game. Like KAT loco S, it translates real physical movement into movement in a game. However, Natural Locomotion achieves this without any need for additional instruments. You simply swing your VR motion controllers back and forth like you would when you’re walking, and Natural Locomotion will register your arm motion as movement in the VR game world.
In conclusion: VR fitness isn’t just a viable solution to people losing out on gym time during the pandemic, it’s also a phenomenal gift. Gaming in a VR headset is always a better alternative for your health than sitting in front of a screen, and it’s especially pertinent to stay healthy now that it’s winter.
Do you feel that you’ve learned everything you need to know to find the right VR headset for the holidays? Let us know in the comments!