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How Virtual Reality Motivated Me to Exercise

Updated on April 4, 2020
Eastward profile image

Eastward leads a university virtual reality laboratory, conducts lectures, and is an industrial innovation management PhD candidate.

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Getting untethered

In my lab at work, I primarily use an HTC Vive Pro. This device is powerful, in combination with the PC that powers it, and great for development work. However, as much as I use it, I still manage to find myself wrapped up in the cord that connects the head mounted device to the PC. The more a virtual reality (VR) application prompts me to move around, the more easily I become entangled. Because of this, I hadn't really considered using it for vigorous fitness activity.

Recently, I purchased the Oculus Quest from the Oculus company owned by Facebook. This device contains its own computing power, similar to a high-end mobile phone, and doesn't need to be connected to a PC, console, or other external computing device. While the standalone device is less powerful than the Vive Pro, I was immediately impressed by the untethered, cordless experience. For the first time, I felt I was able to take full advantage of my six degrees of freedom (6DoF).

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Getting moving

With my new Oculus Quest and untethered freedom, I began to explore applications that gave me a little more opportunity to move around. I still don't have a lot of space in my urban apartment, but get by (mostly) with a play area slightly less than the 7 ft. by 5 ft. suggested by Oculus. Although, I did end up with a few bruised up fingers when my guardian system (which shows the boundaries of your play area) malfunctioned. This was easily resolved by holding down the power button for 30 seconds and resetting the Quest (and an ice pack).

The first VR application that got my heart rate up and had me breaking a sweat was Beat Saber. If you aren't familiar with the bestselling Beat Saber game, the premise is simple. You cut cubes color coordinated with the colored light sabers in your hands to the beat of music as they move towards you. You gain points by cutting in the right direction of the arrows shown on the cubes.

The game has different modes, such as campaign, solo, and party. The campaign mode starts you off easy and gradually gets harder as you complete each song level. Additional challenges are added to the basic game mechanics and you will encounter songs speeding up and find yourself having to slash away madly with only one saber.

In the solo mode, you can play through a variety of songs included with the original purchase or buy additional music packs from artists like Green Day, Imagine Dragons, Timbaland, and more. In this mode, you can compete with yourself or check your score globally and locally. Additionally, there are modifications to make the game easier or harder. You can slow down songs, speed them up, and set the arrows to disappear as the cubes approach you. In the party mode, you can compete with your friends.

I would recommend this highly-rated game to any Quest users (along with users of other platforms for that matter). Channeling my inner Jedi was a lot of fun and I attacked colored cubes until I was exhausted. For new users, I'd recommend playing for a song or two and then taking a break. Some users are susceptible to VR sickness (similar to motion sickness) that occurs when the balance mechanisms in your inner ear fail to match up with what you perceive visually.

Specifically in terms of exercise, this game will mostly have you working your arms and shoulders. It will also have you doing some twisting of the torso and occasional squats.

Beat Saber game-play

Keeping moving

After becoming more familiar with the Quest and the exercise potential it holds, I went looking for the next kinesthetic game. I read through reviews of some options, such as Audica, Ohshape, and Synth Riders. I decided to go with Pistol Whip.

Pistol Whip is another game where you move along with the beat of the music. However, as the name might suggest, in this game you shoot pistols instead of attacking with sabers. You shoot abstracted enemy figures in neckties with your pistols in a manner that evokes the fighting style of John Wick. The more your bullets connect with enemies in time with the pulsing metronome beat, the more points you gain.

The main game starts you out with one pistol, but I prefer turning on the "dual wield" modifier and fighting it out in symmetrical intensity (the modifier does come with a scoring penalty though). The game has three levels of difficulty, easy, normal, and hard. The easy mode is great to get started, the normal mode is challenging, and the hard mode is downright dizzying. Again, I enjoyed this game fully and as I twisted, turned, ducked, and dodged to get my shots landed on time, I burned some serious calories.

This game will work your arms and shoulders as you hold out your virtual pistols to aim and shoot, though not quite as aggressively as Beat Saber. You'll likely do more twisting of your torso though, and the squats required are more frequent.

Pistol Whip trailer

Moving forward

All-in-all, I couldn't be more happy with my purchase of the Oculus Quest and the way it inspired me to get more exercise while avoiding the outside heat and pollution. I am beginning to see the results from the variety of movements required in Beat Saber and Pistol Whip. I've shed a little weight, have become more toned, and had a lot of fun in the process. Now, I'm looking forward to exploring other apps and games that will keep me moving. I'm hoping that virtual reality and the Oculus Quest can motivate you too!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Eastward

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    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR

      Eastward 

      5 weeks ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      It is fun, Liza. Sorry to hear that you got a headache when trying VR. I'd just keep in mind that the tech has come a long way recently in reducing motion/VR sickness (in case it has been a while since you've tried). It's great that you can stay motivated for home exercise without it though!

    • lizmalay profile image

      Liza 

      5 weeks ago from USA

      I bet this is fun! Alas, I can't put or wear something like this over my eyes as I will some sort of headache. I've tried and I don't think I will do it again. LOL. So, I stay with my home exercise :) However, it seems like a good idea for people to keep moving during this lockdown period.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR

      Eastward 

      2 months ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Liz. It looks as though you are right and demand is up significantly right now. Devices are currently out of stock from Oculus directly and prices I'm seeing elsewhere are nearing double what I paid for my Quest in December! I've certainly been grateful for VR during the COVID-19 pandemic and its ability to transport me beyond the confines of my apartment.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      Maybe during lockdown , the market for these devices will increase rapidly. Your article opens readers eyes to the possibilities.

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