University Study Reveals VR’s Unexpected Benefits for Exercise

18 Jun 2024

Virtual Reality (VR) has long been considered useful for gaming and not much else. However, a recent study suggests that VR technology is terrific for exercise.

The University of Victoria in Canada (UVic) conducted a study together with tech giant Meta to evaluate the impact of Meta’s VR fitness platform Supernatural’s workouts on energy expenditure.

In the study, led by Dr. Ryan Rhodes at UVic and co-authored by Tabitha Craig and Dr. Yoah Sui, participants between the ages of 18-40 engaged in Supernatural Flow, a full-body cardio workout, which was discovered to have similar cardiovascular benefits to running.

On the one hand, this is likely a clear effort by Meta to promote its product and demonstrate, using scientific backing, that its technology is beneficial for our health.

On the other hand, it is plausible that combining VR technology with exercise makes it just as beneficial and effective, and is simultaneously entertaining. For many, exercise is a tedious bore. Today, with VR, it no longer needs to be.

In addition to exercise, users can enjoy enhanced VR for yoga and overall wellbeing sessions. Many consumers will be pleased to know that Alo Moves, a well-known online on-demand "movement and mindfulness" platform is making a mixed reality yoga app for the Meta Quest 3 – the first of its kind to use virtual coaches for fully immersive at-home yoga sessions.

The technology offers users the ability to exercise or practice yoga with a unique virtual reality experience, the key difference being that the coach will be in their home rather than in a virtual environment.

In addition to the experience, the actual physical aspect of using VR for this purpose has benefits. Users can choose from an endless amount of sports options such as boxing or tennis. By playing such games, users are drawn into a virtual reality experience that engages them for longer than they might have exercised otherwise. Having a goal, such as winning a tennis game or a boxing round, gives people a goal to work towards and helps achieve a longer-lasting and more beneficial workout session.

At the same time, some research has found that exercising with VR for a shorter period is just as beneficial as exercising for a longer period without the use of VR.

A new study examining the effects of virtual reality exercise on mental health finds that people can cut down on the amount of weekly vigorous exercise and still maintain mood-boosting benefits. Other studies have also validated the positive psychological impacts of VR fitness, even for a shorter period of time than fitness without VR.

It seems obvious that VR can help people through exercise and that it has physical and mental health benefits, but most people don’t seem to be aware of this.

According to Athletech, 80% of Americans don’t exercise regularly with fun, captivating games and fitness workouts. VR companies aim to change this and attract more potential consumers to an activity long considered too tough to engage in.

By demonstrating that VR exercise, aerobics, yoga, or meditation is psychologically and physically beneficial, as well as more fun and entertaining, it is likely that tech companies can convince millions more people to become interested in these activities combined with VR technology.

If you never liked exercising or doing yoga, this is your moment. Buy a VR headset and immerse yourself in a fun and captivating world that will take your mind, body, and spirit to a whole new level.