An outside observer might criticize us, and anyone promoting VR fitness, for pushing heavy experiences that are not always beginner friendly. We recommend great fitness games, but it’s fair to say that the level of intensity we sometimes expect is higher than “novice”. Already, there’s a stigma attached to a game like Skyrim or Pavlov. You might think VR fitness isn’t for you.
When I finally did get my VR system, the very first game I bought was Arizona Sunshine. After a few sessions, my body felt fatigued and I was straining. I’d hit a point after about forty-five minutes or so where I couldn’t go anymore.
I was out of shape. I’d spent too much time on my couch playing passive games and now I was in a walking simulator. I was crouching to open drawers, or ducking behind obstacles to give myself a few seconds more to get a better shot. And the next morning I’d wake up feeling like I’d worked out.
I’m here to tell you that if all you ever play is multiplayer Arizona Sunshine, you’re into VR Fitness. Walking simulators and action games are VR fitness. Getting off the couch is VR fitness. Here’s why you should take the plunge:
Getting off the Couch is the Gateway to VR Fitness
Arizona Sunshine was not only my gateway into VR, it was the first experience that taught me getting off the couch is exercise. If you game hardcore, you’re spending hours on the couch or in a chair everyday. Long term, you’re increasing your risk for chronic diseases that include heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Short term, you’re probably already feeling small effects.
Do you find it hard to sleep at night, like your spine is twisted or compacted? Do you find it hard to stand and straighten your posture? These short-term effects compound into longer-term debilitations as you grow. Not just your posture, but your muscle development. Do you think short labored breaths hunched over a computer keyboard are good for your cardio?
Changing this horrible cycle is simple: get off the couch.
Adventure games like Skyrim or Fallout are a good way to get off the couch without straining yourself. You can enjoy the novelty of VR, take in the sights and wonder at the world around you. You can also get some combat in and decide what level of intensity is right for you.
I like Bethesda games a lot for VR beginners. Yes, they are expensive VR releases but the customization is worth the cost. Setting difficulty, graphics options, and a host of other features allow almost anyone to step into these experiences.
Once you’ve gotten through these worlds, and gotten yourself acquainted with VR in general, our recommendations here will prove more useful.
Locomotion is VR Fitness
How you get around in a walking simulator can play a role in the gains or losses you’re aiming for. If you want to lose weight, something like Climbey or Skyrim with Natural Locomotion is perfect. Arm swinger locomotion works your arms, shoulders, and your core. It keeps your heart rate high, especially when paired with intense combat or fast-paced actions.
My first experiences with Arizona Sunshine used the teleportation locomotion method. Teleportation lets you physically step into your immediate environment to manipulate objects and teleport to points of interest farther away. The experience feels tense because your teleportation is limited in its distance, and you conserve your energy to move in your environment.
Which is better, squats or walking? Toying with your locomotion options allow you to explore control schemes that allow for both types of exercise. It’s about finding what’s comfortable for you.
VR Fitness through Combat
We’ve written before about fitness games that use combat to elevate your gains. The Thrill of the Fight is more of a hardcore workout, but lots of users enjoy Knockout League or something more casual like Virtual Fighting League or Creed. The multiplayer aspect can be motivating.
You lose while you gain in the leaderboards. You also work your way up to longer sessions, and in games where power of your strike matters, you get better at beating opponents with well-placed strikes. You can also fitness hack most games to improve the fitness value.
The satisfaction of victory, and of control over your body, is one of the primary reasons to pursue the martial arts. Let VR be your gateway to physical combat as a means to fitness in a space that is safe for you and those around you.
VR Fitness Lowered the Bar to Entry
If you’re a PC gamer, a VR system can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to up to a thousand for the higher end fancy models, like the Index or the Vive Pro. You’ve probably already got the GPU and CPU power you need (and Steam has a handy tool you can use to determine your compatibility).
You’re worried, as I was, that your headset will collect dust.
It won’t. VR is a unique experience with niche titles. Find what you like to do in VR, then seek out games that push you physically. I began by shooting zombies. For at least a year leading up to my VR purchase, I’d heard Arizona Sunshine was terrifying and gripping. It was once locked on PC only. Today, even PSVR players can get in on the survival horror.
The point being that a headset costs not much more, and sometimes even less than a year at the gym. If you are not a “gym person”, and you want to get in shape, try VR fitness!
Gamify Your Routine
VR Fitness games utilize ahicevements, leaderboards, and natural challenges as a means to motivate players to exceed their expectations. As soon as you think you’ve conquered a game, there’s a new way to learn it that’s more efficient or harder on your body. When your body is the controller, your sense of accomplishment rises exponentially.
Yes, achieving a victory in a multiplayer battle of DotA or Overwatch is exhilarating. But it can’t compare to knowing you were able to physically overcome your obstacles and achieve victory in VR.
It’s not just that you won, it’s that your body was capable of winning. Your immersion feels that much more intense in a game like Fallout, when you have been standing for 60 minutes and you’re tired from melee subweapons and you can barely lift your pistol to stave off the oncoming assault. Skyrim becomes a battle when the dragon you fought tanked so much damage your swings feel tired and sloppy. Will a band of giants strike before you can find safety?
VR’s immersion is fitness’ greatest asset. You’re not just getting off the couch. You’re living the game, and survival depends on what your body can handle. You’ll need to work up to being good, and retrain yourself.
Are you up for the challenge that VR Fitness offers?