Get fit with VR. Credit: Tower Life

How many times have you crept closer to the New Year and thought: “this year is my time! I’m going to finally lose that weight and keep it off!” I think we’ve all been there (it’s in my goal notebook as I type this), but the key to really following through on that premise is consistency. If you’re inconsistent, even a little bit, you’ll find it harder to get back into your routine and you may even lose some of the gains you’ve made.

Part of the reason we fall victim to this challenge is that the regular gym (the analog gym, for the sake of sounding “sciency”), isn’t the most stimulating place. They play great music and they do their best with motivational sayings and trainers, but the pressure is on you to succeed. You have to leave the house, pack your gym bag and head out. If you’re like most people, you’ve already prepped some great excuses for those days you just don’t feel like working out.

With VR, that “work” part doesn’t even factor in. The game development helps push you past your limits in order to achieve your goals.

Level Design Keeps Play Interesting

One of the big unspoken obstacles we face in fitness is motivation. Motivation can help take us to the next level, or make it so hard to leave the couch we find ourselves slipping away from our goals. At the gym, our motivation may come in the form of a trainer or a workout buddy, but VR takes an entirely different approach.

Credit to: DigitalBadger Design

Our brains crave new experiences and stimuli to process. In addition to whatever physical activity our bodies are going through, the brain wants challenges to solve and problems to overcome. Ever hear someone remark that working out is boring and repetitive? VR can use level design to overcome these novel challenges.

Good level design will take advantage of full range of motion, enabling you to squat or run or move through the world without a lot of obstacles. Even though the arena is simple, Holopoint is a good example of this kind of action. Holopoint will force you to turn a full 360 degrees, as well as squat or kneel as you knock and fire arrows at targets within the room. At higher levels, the intensity of the waves you face increases such that your workout builds steadily over time. By the end you’re getting a full body workout just from shooting at targets.

Libraries of Games to Choose

When you go to the gym, your routine is as exciting as you can try and make it. You can go to spin class or kick boxing or do dead lifts with your buddies but in the end you’re just doing reps on a limited number of devices. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but those who crave something new might thrive in VR.

Viveport offers an affordable way to get access to a growing library of games. Credit: HTC

Both the Vive and Rift feature libraries of games to choose from once you’ve gotten the device, along with even more you can purchase through Steam and other platforms. Mobile devices utilize their respective app stores to sell games and apps, increasing the number of potential fitness experiences. Don’t like Crytek’s The Climb? Switch to Quivr or Superhot. You’ll burn an equivalent number of calories with a completely new experience.

And there are tons of these equivalents. Are you a tennis player? Then you’ll love Fastest Fist and Hot Squat, which both burn calories at a rate equivalent to the game of tennis. Swimmers and joggers will feel right at home with the cardio intensive games like Audioshield or Thrill of the Fight, which are both fun and physically demanding.

Maximizing Your Session

Like any workout, there’s some effort involved on your part to make sure you’re getting the most out of what VR can offer. Plan to spend some money on equipment to get started. VirZOOM offers a low-priced entry point, while the Vive or Rift headsets offer lots of games and that “ground floor” experience of being where the VR development is.

We suggest a Vive or Rift because you’ll want to move around in your space, and they have the largest library of games to choose from currently in the form of Steam. Plus, both headsets are compatible with VirZOOM so you have the widest variety of options with a PC-based headset.

Plan to vary games throughout your session to take maximum advantage of what VR can do for you. We suggest warmup sessions at 10-15 minute intervals using games that burn light calories, then easing into longer sessions with higher intensity games. A good example might be Gorn for 10 minutes before switching to Audioshield for 20 minutes, then back to Arcade Saga or Fruit Ninja for something fun to cap you off.

Final Thoughts

A VR workout does require some setup, and so it’s best if you can find a partner willing to jump into the experience with you. You’re also more likely to hold yourself accountable if someone else joins in.

You shouldn’t leave the gym entirely, but VR can help put some spring back into your fitness step. There’s also several variations of the saying that fitness starts in the kitchen. Watching what you eat is the other unspoken rule to a healthier lifestyle. Watch what you eat, stay consistent and seek out new experiences.

This year is your year!