We’re not the type of site that likes to say we told you so, but this time we just can’t resist. We’ve long been proponents of VR gaming and it’s positive impact on fitness and health and recent research has just helped prove our point even more. The research shows VR gaming has an effect on competitiveness and social facilitation. What does that mean for you? If you workout in VR, you get more out of your body than you would if you were on a boring, steady-state cardio machine in your local gym. Sound interesting? Yeah, we thought that would get your attention.

One study supporting these claims looked at a group of seniors participating in a VR cycling game and how participants interacted with one another and how well they performed, and indicated fitness programs that match competitiveness tend to maximize the effort of participants. The study is further proof that exercise boosts not just physical, but also cognitive and psychological health in participants of VR gaming experiences.

Data from a 2007 National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a sharp decline in regular exercise across the board for nearly every demographic in the United States. Since there have been more recent updates to what constitutes “regular exercise,” and the number reflecting a lowest acceptability of activity as opposed to more ambitious projections in years gone by, it is believed this number is no longer an accurate reflection of the problem. The hope is if more people are encouraged to be more active – even by a slight increase – programs that include a competitive edge could enhance the effort they do make.

There is also hope that the prospect of competition could help overcome common barriers that prevent many of American from exercising, including obesity, inactivity, injury and old age. Those interviewed claimed everything from lack of motivation to inclement weather as an excuse to not exercise. A competitive VR gaming environment would not only eliminate weather condition issues, it could be the push users need to get moving. Research has begun to reveal that exergaming (the clever name the researchers gave it) increases participation and mood.

Study Reveals Competitive Edge Enhance Exercise Experience 

The most recent study that showed the effects of competition in exercise experiences saw participants working out on a stationary bike while in a VR experience that was designed to push their intensity levels. After establishing a cycling baseline, competitive avatars were introduced, and pedaling effort was assessed. Participants exercised in this manner two to five times per week for three months.

Physical factors such as weight, height, abdominal body composition, heart rate, and blood pressure were collected during the study. Results showed that when on-screen competitors were introduced into the exergaming experience, study participants who were already more competitive increased their riding intensity more so than those who were less competitive, but there was an increase in both groups. Researchers consider the increase in the competitive group significant and believe “introduction of a competitive avatar did not adversely impact less competitive riders, but it did enhance the exercise effort of more competitive riders.”

Natural Competitive Nature Could Enhance the Benefits of Exercise 

More research is needed in order to find other motivating factors that might increase a gamer’s desire to work harder during their VR experiences. If the results of this study can be further verified an applied in other situations, it means exergaming experiences could be tailored to suit an individual’s natural competitive nature.

Ultimately, researchers and those in the health and fitness communities want to help anyone, especially those who might be less mobile, find ways to exercise that are fun and motivating. The health benefits alone are not enough to get gamers moving, and there can be a barrier when it comes to introducing anyone to modern technology, but this study has shown that appealing to a person’s natural competitiveness can override many of the other obstacles there are when it comes to leading a healthier, more active lifestyle. What do we need to make this a reality? Better experiences that push users to a more active lifestyle through immersive games that users get lost in without even realizing that they’re working out.


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