We play VR, walk, run, swim, cycle, climb, box, and lift to stay fit, strong and healthy. Some futurists expect that “health conscious” people of the future will be taking pills that alter their DNA to exercise themselves. This may sound welcoming to couch potatoes waiting around for a one-stop solution to weight loss or health, but is years (longer) in the making and an unrealistic quick fix. Unlike a hypothetical pill, VR fitness is an exhilarating, adventurous, and reliable way to carve off those pesky pounds, build up and tone muscle, and feel more empowered!
VR workouts are so stimulating and rewarding to our brains that players are quickly sent into immersive states that make exercising fly by and feel less tedious. Think about Las Vegas casinos and how there are no clocks anywhere — time flies when you’re having fun! The same idea rings true for VR, except replace video poker for 360-degree environments you can interact with and instead of winning money players become fit!
VR Gyms Of The (Near) Future
Pills are an easy solution and exercising requires effort, grit, and perseverance to see real results on the scale or in your energy levels. Using your treadmill to hang up clothes that don’t fit or staring at the dusty weight station as a reminder of how strong you used to be isn’t going to do anything for your body or your mindset. Why not take control, feel better about yourself and stay strong for years to come? Gyms of the future are making it a lot easier to accomplish!
Black Box VR
When a gym goer or a beginner jumps into a VR cable resistance machine like Black Box VR they quickly see and feel what the gym of the (near) future looks like. Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, fitness industry leaders and formerly of Bodybuilding.com, fused VR with fitness by attaching Vive tracked armbands to their cable system to stand in as weapons and special abilities in virtual sport and training games.
Preston Lewis spoke with Forbes about what their VR gym of the future brings to both the VR and fitness industries, “One key differentiator is our patent-pending dynamic resistance machine that is specifically designed to deliver real resistance in a virtual environment. Nobody in the market is delivering real resistance that corresponds to an immersive virtual sport like we are.” Their black box machine covers about 8 feet by 8 feet of room, which is enough space to feel like you’re a superhero defeating bad guys with chest presses in VR.
Lewis goes on to say, “The dynamic resistance machine is mapped in the virtual environment so when you reach out to grab a virtual handle, you are actually grabbing the handle in the real world. You can feel it.” Their gym’s attendees will get a major upper body workout that will build strength, tone muscles, and melt away unhealthy fat in a way that’s never been done in the VR industry until now. Black Box VR told us that they anticipate that their high-tech boutique gym will open in San Francisco in late 2018.
Running, spinning, and elliptical training into the void of the white wall at the gym is fine if that’s what gives you a kick out of life. Heck, throw a dangling carrot (or a piece of cake) in front of you to keep you moving and you realize you’ve got a basic meh workout on your hands. If you’re looking for more excitement out of life or in the gym, VR enabled fitness machines like Holofit by Holodia will change the way gymgoers get their cardio in.
Guests that are returning back to exercise after being away a while and even fitness lifers will find a VR compatible spinning, rowing, or elliptical machine that they’ll enjoy exercising with instead of their previous forms as low key torture devices. There are gyms like CMG Sports Club that are equipped with Holodia’s Holofit machines and even Olympians like Bertrand Vecten who have called it “an ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC MOTIVATIONAL TOOL” to train with.
Holofit machines use Vive headsets that have Holoworld games on them. These games will take you from an underwater ocean to outer space, depending on where you’d like to get your workout in that day. These adventure based fitness games use the exercisers own energy and of course, fat stores to put power behind reps, rows, and pedals and keeps them motivated to replay them for a higher score among competing players.
There are pages and pages of upper and lower body games for fitness in VR. But what about exercising and zeroing in on the abs and obliques? This is where Icaros fitness machine and flight simulator steps in to save the day! The fitness company has found success at select gyms across the nation and has recently received funding in the “mid-seven figures” that will go towards research and development.
Icaros has a new Icaros Home machine for consumer use and a Pro edition that is more of an enterprise version of the machine. Pilots who play their flying games will lay in a plank or prone position that works the core, back, upper and lower body by shifting body weight in games. Michael Schmidt, Icaros co-founder and CEO explains that they are invested in VR fitness because they want to, “provide the most motivating and health-promoting training experiences to combat our society’s sedentary lifestyle.”
The flying simulator is used with Vive, Oculus, and Gear VR headsets and comes with access to a multiplayer flight racing game called Icarace. The Icarace has flight worthy obstacles to weave and race around against players online. Pilots not only get to feel like they’re playing video games, they also exercise their full body and work on their reflexes, strength, and balance at the same time. Icaros flight simulator and fitness machines have huge potential in the health, fitness, and physiotherapy fields due to the range of muscles that it targets and the difficulty settings that can be customized to each pilot.
Life Fitness and VirZOOM have blended their two worlds together to bring VR exercise bikes to gyms! Life Fitness is best known for their upright and recumbent stationary bikes and VirZOOM is best known for their virtual reality games that make it fun for users to pedal and be rewarded for it with a high score or a better bod. Gym goers that struggle with staying excited and motivated to keep going to the gym and even committed gym peeps looking for a shakeup in cardio will get a lot out of having these bikes in their local gym.
Since we last checked in with VirZOOM they had a change in the headsets they are using; Windows Mixed Reality and Acer are now their headsets of choice. Gym goers can pedal in real life as fast as they want and move around in VR as a tank, riding on a Pegasus, racing around a track, on a boat, or other fun experiences. Using the handlebar buttons to interact with games, users can battle other tanks, lasso bad guys, collect gems, and other actions that will challenge them.
Their VR compatible bikes are so effective for gym retention rates that VirZOOMers ride 3.25 days a week on average and for 38 minutes a workout. This beats the paltry 1.5 days a non-VR bike would get and the 17-minute difference between working out on a bike with VR versus a bike without it.
Smart VR Wearables
We wear our smartwatches to remind us to get up and walk around and to see how hard our heart is working when we slice, box, shoot, or squat our way through games for fitness or while we’re at the gym. Smart wearables may gather important personal data about our bodies from just our wrist, but smart clothing is rising up from its shadow and tracking the entire body.
A company called Kaaya Tech created smart clothing called the HoloSuit that users wear to track their body’s movement, gather data, and provide haptic sensations to the wearer in VR. The 6-piece suit comes in the form of a jacket, gloves, pants, jersey, headband, and trackers for the foot and clavicle to track isolated areas or the full body.
Currently, the smart suit can be worn playing golf, practicing karate, and even as you’re holding poses in yoga. The wearable VR suit has body tracking support from 26 to 36 sensors (depending on the suit you choose) and 9 haptic feedback sites that can be used in a range of activities in athletics, fitness training, and therapeutic settings. Their Kickstarter end product is estimated to start delivering in November 2018.
The gym of the future looks like it will likely have athletic clothing options that will take the place of VR controllers and will be more immersive to the senses. Getting data about which exercises are the best for your fitness level or whether you’re performing an exercise correctly will change how gyms, fitness trainers, sports coaches, and athletes train and how physical therapists and doctors help their patients.
Top VR Fitness Games
Gyms and fitness clubs that see the value of VR as a fitness solution that will draw in and keep clients coming back will need to know the best fitness games for VR. Black Box VR and Holodia’s Holofit line each use their own games to target specific movements and areas of the body. Whereas gyms that purchase Vive, Oculus, PSVR, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets will want to keep reading to see which fitness games are trending right now!
This summer’s hottest VR game is Beat Saber created by Beat Games. Beat Saber is a music-driven, rhythm-heavy cube slicing game and extreme fat burning workout. Become the musical Jedi or ninja you always dreamed of becoming as you use a neon red and blue saber in each hand to hit music cubes in all directions as they go down a platform. Beat Saber is so good for exercise that Kevin Williams lost 32 pounds playing it!
Jump into a BOX VR workout to turn up the seriousness on cardio training or to fire up your fat burn on that smartwatch. BOX VR is a platform boxing simulator where you’ll be punching, weaving, lunging, squatting, and shredding calories to the beat of the music instead of sparring or hitting other players or characters. Get drenched in sweat with the game’s EDM music or add your own music files and then jump into a solo or multiplayer workout that’s been curated by professional trainers.
VR’s Fitness Future
Virtual reality is seeing some major changes in the fitness realm and this will change what the gyms of the present and future will look like. We’ve seen gyms move from stationary and weight machines with meh views to fitness machines that have limitless viewing and gaming potential.
Smartwatches paved the way for wearable clothing to make progress towards data and body tracking, and will no doubt change how much we know about our bodies. We’ve also seen the popularity of movement heavy VR games that test our body’s limits and motivate us with music.
The gym of the future is inspiring to think about and even more exciting when it’s just around the corner!