Slicing marbles to the beat of your favorite song, jumping and bending under laser beams, or orcs fighting with swords in the middle of the forest — if these workouts sound like a lot more fun than running miles on a 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, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology and research director of San Francisco State’s Strength and Conditioning Laboratory. University, where he studies virtual reality health and exercise. Plus, games can be a lot of fun.
“Virtual reality games aren’t always advertised as exercise, but our research shows that when you play them, some can deliver a workout like walking on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike,” says Dr. Bagley.
To get started with VR fitness, you’ll need a VR headset, like the Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2), HTC Vive Pro, or PlayStation VR. Next, you’ll need to download a few games.
And remember, if you have a medical condition or injury that could interfere with your ability to exercise safely, check with your doctor before trying VR fitness games or any new exercise program.
The experts’ pick: 7 VR fitness games to try
We asked Bagley and other VR fitness experts for their favorite games to play when they’re ready to work out. These games will get you off the couch and on your feet, and even get your heart pumping. Here’s a rundown of their top picks:
Supernatural was the top choice from Bagley and Aaron Stanton, founders and directors of the VR Health Institute, an independent research organization launched in 2017 to study the effects 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’s a subscription-based workout platform that currently offers more than 500 workouts and adds new ones daily. You can practice yoga, pilates, boxing and more, guided by a virtual instructor, and in a variety of stunning destinations around the world, from the salt flats of Bolivia to the volcanoes of Iceland.
For a full workout, you can try Supernatural’s signature game, Flow, where players use their controllers to smash targets to the beat of the song, while ducking, attacking and jumping to avoid oncoming shapes.
Training sessions usually last between 10 and 30 minutes. “Time goes by faster than you think, and before you know it, you’re sweating and you’ve done the day’s work,” says Bagley.
Play It is only intended for the Meta Quest VR headset. Members pay $19.99 per month.
2. Defeat the saber
Bagley calls it “contagious.” With a controller that acts as a lightsaber blade – one red and one blue – in each hand, you’ll slice the oncoming shapes to the beat of the music. The shapes are either red or blue, and your job is to cut them with the appropriate sword. You’ll also need 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.
Play Beat Saber is available on multiple platforms, including Meta Quest and the PlayStation VR headset. It sells for about $30.
3. The excitement of the fight
If you’ve ever wondered how you’d fare in the boxing ring, download Thrill of the Fight and put on your VR headset.
Stanton says 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 had one of the highest energy expenditure per minute of the matches they watched. The players burned between 9.74 and 15.32 calories per minute, which is on par with the calories burned during a traditional, real-life rowing workout.
You consistently throw punches while crouching and bending over each other for matches that last roughly five minutes. Exercise can be quite strenuous. Stanton says you’ll end up covered in sweat and probably have sore hands after a few matches.
Bonus: You won’t feel the virtual punches and hits coming your way!
Play It is available for the Meta Quest VR headset. It costs $9.99.
When Tim Donahey, a personal trainer based at the Ohio-based National Academy of Sports Medicine, turned to VR fitness in August 2016 to help him lose the weight he had gained earlier this year, Holoball was one of four games in his daily routine. rotation. (Donahey stuck to one hour of VR exercise five days a week for 50 days, chronicling the experience on Reddit.)
Holoball is like a virtual racket, where players are in a colorful room and hit neon-colored balls against the walls in front of them. “It’s very intuitive, so you’ll feel the familiarity right away as you play the game. But from a cardiovascular standpoint, it will get your heart rate up into the warm-up zone and keep you there,” says Donahey.
Play Holoball is available on multiple platforms, including Meta Quest, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Steam. It costs from $9.99 to $14.99 (depending on your platform).
If you want to try your hand at archery, check out Holopoint.
In it, you play as an archer, drawing a virtual bow to hit blue targets that are approaching you. Every time you spend the target, it fires a blue laser beam at you that you’ll have to dodge, says Mathias Sorensen, ACSM-certified personal trainer and curriculum manager at the American Academy of Fitness and Nutrition in Pasadena, California. Sorensen, an avid gamer, says he started using VR fitness games in 2015.
Sorensen says he likes the variety of movements – you’ll be running around the living room shooting arrows from different stances, while jumping and ducking to avoid laser beams.
Here’s your warning: As the levels progress, you’ll encounter ninjas and samurai armed with their own swords and their own laser beams, says Sorensen.
Play It is available for Meta Quest, Steam or PlayStation VR. It costs $14.99.
If you prefer different exercise options, try FitXR, says Sorensen. On the platform, you can choose from boxing sets, dance classes and high intensity interval training (HIIT) studios. You will sign up for a monthly subscription to access the exercise database. There is a library of on-demand lessons, with new exercises posted daily. You have the option to choose between different music genres and practice environments.
Sorensen’s favorite part of the platform is the boxing exercises.
“It’s one of the most demanding games you can play for cardio. You’re throwing punches, you’re dodging incoming punches, you’re pumped all the time,” he says.
Play It is only available for Meta Quest. Monthly subscription is $9.99.
7. Goalkeeper VR
Goalkeepers deal with a lot of pressure on the football pitch. If you want to be in their shoes for a day without the pressure of real life, Donahey’s VR fitness choice is Goalkeeper VR.
You’ll need concentration, coordination and the ability to react quickly while protecting the net from soccer balls headed your way, Donahey says. Expect to jump, jump to either side, or slide 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.
Play It is available on Meta Quest, HTC Vive, Steam and PlayStation VR. Download it for $6.99.