Slicing bullets to the beat of your favorite song, jumping and ducking under laser beams, orcs sword-fighting in the middle of the forest – if these workouts sound a lot more fun than running miles on the treadmill, read on.
With virtual reality (VR) technology, you can work up a sweat and burn some serious calories from the comfort of your living room, says Jimmy Bagley, Ph.D, associate professor of kinesiology and research director of the Strength and Conditioning Laboratory at San Francisco State University, where he studies health and movement in virtual reality. Also, the games can be a lot of fun.
“Virtual reality games aren’t always marketed as exercise, but our research shows that when you play some of them, they can provide the exercise equivalent of walking on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike,” says Dr. Bagley.
To get started with VR fitness, you need a VR headset, e.g. B. a Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2), an HTC Vive Pro or a PlayStation VR. Then you need to download a few games.
And remember, if you have a medical condition or injury that could affect your ability to exercise safely, consult your doctor before trying VR fitness games or a new exercise program.
The Expert Tips: 7 VR Fitness Games to Try
We asked Bagley and other VR fitness experts about their favorite games to play when they’re ready for a workout. These games will get you off the couch and even get your heart rate up. Here’s a summary of their top picks:
Supernatural was Bagley’s best choice and Aaron Stanton, Founder and Director of the VR Health Institute, an independent research organization founded in 2017 to study the impact of virtual and augmented reality technology on fitness. (Bagley and San Francisco State University have partnered with the VR Health Institute for research projects.)
It is a subscription-based training platform that currently offers more than 500 works and is adding new ones every day. You can practice yoga, pilates, boxing and more under the guidance of a virtual trainer in a variety of stunning destinations around the world, from the salt flats of Bolivia to a volcano in Iceland.
For a thorough workout, check out Supernatural’s signature game, Flow, where players use their controllers to smash targets to the beat of a song while crouching, dashing, and jumping to avoid oncoming shapes.
The training sessions usually last between 10 and 30 minutes. “Time flies faster than you think and before you know it you’re sweaty and through with the day’s workout,” says Bagley.
To play It’s only for Meta Quest VR headsets. Members pay $19.99 per month.
2. beat saber
Bagley calls it “addictive.” With a controller that acts as a lightsaber – one red and one blue – in each hand, you slash through oncoming shapes to the beat of the music. The shapes are either red or blue and your task is to cut them with the appropriate sword. You also have to duck and avoid oncoming obstacles.
“It reminds me of old school Dance Dance Revolution. It can end up being a pretty intense workout,” says Bagley.
To play Beat Saber is available on multiple platforms including Meta Quest and PlayStation VR headsets. It costs about $30.
If you’ve ever wondered how you’d fare in a boxing ring, download Thrill of the Fight and put on your VR headset.
According to Stanton, researchers at the VR Health Institute measured how many calories players burned in a variety of games, including Thrill of the Fight. It turned out that this sparring game had one of the highest energy consumption per minute of the games they watched. The players burned between 9.74 and 15.32 calories per minute, which is equivalent to the calories burned during a traditional, real-world rowing workout.
You punch consistently while crouching and crouching side-by-side for fights that last about five minutes. Training can be quite strenuous. Stanton says that after a few games you’ll be drenched in sweat and likely have sore arms.
Bonus: you won’t feel any of the virtual punches and punches coming your way!
To play It is available for Meta Quest VR headsets. It costs $9.99.
When Tim Donahey, an Ohio-based National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer, turned to VR fitness in August 2016 to help him lose weight he’d gained earlier that year, holoball was one of the four games in its daily rotation. (Donahey stayed in VR training for one hour five days a week for 50 days and recorded the experience Reddit.)
Holoball is like virtual racquetball, where players bash neon-colored balls against the walls in front of them in a colorful room. “It’s very intuitive, so you’ll feel instantly familiar as you play. But from a cardiovascular standpoint, it will get your heart rate into the warm-up zone and keep you there,” says Donahey.
To play Holoball is available on multiple platforms including Meta Quest, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Steam. The price ranges from $9.99 to $14.99 (depending on the platform).
If you want to try your hand at archery, check out Holopoint.
In it, you play an archer who draws a virtual bow to hit blue targets coming your way. Each time you eviscerate a target, it will fire a blue laser beam at you, which you must dodge accordingly Mathias Sorensen, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and curriculum manager at the American Fitness and Nutrition Academy in Pasadena, California. Sorensen, an avid gamer, says he started using VR fitness games in 2015.
Sorensen says he likes the variety of moves – you run around your living room shooting arrows from different positions while jumping and ducking to avoid laser beams.
Here’s your warning: As you progress through the levels, you’ll encounter ninjas and samurai, each armed with swords and laser beams, says Sorensen.
To play It is available for Meta Quest, Steam or PlayStation VR. It costs $14.99.
If you prefer a variety of workout options, give FitXR a try, says Sorensen. You can choose from boxing sets, dance classes, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) studios on the platform. You sign up for a monthly subscription to access the training database. There is a library of on-demand courses with new workouts being posted daily. You have the opportunity to choose from different music genres and training environments.
Sorensen’s favorite part of the platform is the boxing drills.
“It’s one of the most challenging games you can play for cardio. You’re throwing punches, you’re avoiding oncoming hits, you’re pumped all the time,” he says.
To play It is only available for Meta Quest. A monthly subscription costs $9.99.
Goalkeepers have to endure a lot of pressure on the soccer field. If you want a day without the real-world pressure in your shoes, Goalkeeper VR is Donahey’s VR fitness pick.
You need focus, coordination, and the ability to react quickly when protecting the net from soccer balls coming your way, says Donahey. Expect to jump, tumble to both sides, or scoot on your knees to deflect balls with your hands, feet, and even your forehead.
“It’s a game where you’ll be jumping all the time,” he says.
To play It’s available on Meta Quest, HTC Vive, Steam, and PlayStation VR. Download it for $6.99.