Virtual reality (VR) is quickly becoming one of the most important technological developments of the 21st century. It has evolved from being a science-fiction concept to being implemented in various industries. The fitness industry is beginning to integrate VR to provide alternative workouts and exercises that are designed to encourage more people to improve their health.
For those that are unfamiliar with Virtual Reality (VR), The Telegraph describes it as a computer simulation of a three-dimensional environment. The user interacts with the environment through a headset that creates a 360-degree 3D field of vision, earphones, and often two controllers loaded with sensors. The headset tracks your head positions so you can look around the virtual world just as you would in the real world. So, how is the technology going to help with your gym workout?
The technology has already been adopted by some fitness club throughout the US, with VR Fit having opened in 2016 within the Wyandotte Athletic Club in Columbus, Ohio. VR Fit provides traditional fitness solutions such as aerobics and weight training within a VR environment. Using the advanced VR technology provided by the HTC Vive, the club immerses their clients in the virtual reality workout, reducing boredom and improving results. Mariah Hasson is one gym member who uses VR in her workout routine, and she believes the technology helps: “When you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like you’re exercising, it feels like you’re playing a game and it’s fun”.
In the same manner, Mayweather Boxing + Fitness recently opened in LA which puts the user through a virtual training course with professional boxer Floyd Mayweather. Participants eventually graduate to compete against virtual opponents in a high-energy environment describes Athletic Business. Some companies have taken it a step further and developed specialized workout machines which are now revolutionizing gyms in over 200 locations from London to Tokyo.
Icaros have developed specialized VR exercise machines which deliver a core workout while the user is flying or deep-ocean diving in a virtual world. We mentioned previously in an article on Healthy & Fit Magazine that the system uses the abdomen as well as the back and leg muscles to tilt and move the device. Users place their knees, elbows, and forearms while lying face down, don a VR headset and a handle in each hand which allows them to fire at targets. The machine promotes balance and coordination while providing a serious workout. Other companies like Black Box have gone the specialized weight resistance route, focusing on strength rather than cardio, while working out and getting sweaty with a VR headset on your head. Armbands around the forearm register hand and arm movements while the resistance machine acts as the controller. They aim to open a boutique gym within the year.
These workouts are generally designed to trick the brain into forgetting you are working out by immersing you in a VR world; while in reality, you are chest pressing, in VR you are punching baddies or hurling fireballs towards incoming targets. VR Scout details how some VR games are ranked by the workout it gives you. While advanced systems such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive provide the best VR experience they also require a hefty computer to run. PartyPoker recommends making sure you have plenty of free GB, especially if you have downloaded an app to your smartphone as they take up a lot of memory. If the VR fitness trend is to catch on it will likely be through apps. The headsets, which allow a smartphone to be inserted, cost a fraction of the price and provide a similar, yet more limited, 3D VR experience. With the technology getting cheaper every year, we’ll be seeing more advanced units and more complex interactive worlds adapted for both specialized gym machines and home use.