Thanks to its motion-tracked input, VR can be a surprisingly physical activity, and even a great workout if you’re playing the right games. This article explains why working out in VR is game-changing for those of us who have a hard time staying motivated with a typical gym routine. We’ll also highlight games and accessories which improve VR as a fitness activity.
Cas and Chary VR is a YouTube channel hosted by Netherland-based duo Casandra Vuong and Chary Keijzer who have been documenting their VR journeys since 2016. They share a curated selection of their content with extra insights for the Road to VR audience.
So I wanted to touch on a subject that I usually find a boring chore but can actually be incredibly fun in VR!
Everyone needs to work out, but I’m usually not motivated to actually dress up and go to the gym after work. It certainly doesn’t help that I find exercising in a gym boring and time-consuming. However, for a while now, I’ve been using VR as my workout, and it feels great. I don’t have trouble staying motivated because it’s fun!
You don’t have to take only my word for it though. Many others have made VR part of their physical fitness and with real success. See, for example, this article by VR Scout where they share a success story from Robert who developed a daily 30 minute workout routine using just Beat Saber and lost 138 pounds in only two months.
Reddit user geoffbowman says he has been on a six month VR fitness journey using Beat Saber to determine the results one can get from only adding VR cardio to an otherwise unchanged lifestyle and diet. He shows a picture of the results and says that he is 30 pounds lighter.
The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise does research on the impact of virtual reality exercise on the human body. They concluded that exercising in VR with the right games can burn more calories than most dedicated workout equipment at the gym.
Several companies have started working on calorie-tracking apps dedicated to VR games. The VR Institute of Health and Exercise has an app called VR Health Exercise Tracker that you can download for free to accurately estimate calorie burn in specific VR games. There’s another VR calorie measurement app by YUR Fit. I’ll talk more about these apps below.
For me, the best thing about working out in VR is that it doesn’t feel like a boring session at the gym anymore. It just feels like I’m playing a game, which makes it enjoyable and easier for me to stay motivated. Plus it really does feel like a workout afterward.
This is why I wanted to share this video. I want to inspire others to give this a shot. And if you have friends who don’t like gaming, they might like getting a VR headset just for fitness.
What You Need to Start Working Out in VR
The two basic things that you need are a VR headset and some VR games. If you don’t have a headset yet. I recommend getting an Oculus Quest as its quick and easy to use, and the lack of tether is great for games with lots of motion. Quest starts at $400.
Once you’ve got the headset, using a calorie tracker and a heart monitor is useful too as it can track your workout more accurately. Tip: If you have an Apple Watch, Apple has added a ‘Fitness Gaming’ workout type recently.
However, since VR is still a pretty new industry, normal calorie trackers might not give you the most accurate data. So I recommend using a calorie tracker that’s dedicated to VR gaming. Here’s two free options that I like:
The one I prefer using is YUR Fit as it shows an overlay during my VR gaming sessions that displays how many calories I’ve burned, how long I’ve been working out, my current heart-rate, and even how many times I’ve squatted.
Heart-rate data is available if you connect a compatible heart monitor. Here’s a list of all monitors that are supported by the YUR Fit app. I am using a Wahoo TICKR, and I’m pretty satisfied with it. If you use the app without a heart monitor, it’ll estimate your heart-rate by software.
YUR Fit is currently in Early Access. You can download the desktop app on Steam or sideload the app on the Oculus Quest. If you don’t know how to sideload, I’ve made a guide on it in a previous video.
VR Health Exercise Tracker
This is the app by the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. This one seems to support fewer heart monitors as mine didn’t work, but this app does show a list of various games which tells you how many calories you will burn per minute per game. The calorie burn for each individual game is rated by the institute themselves. More info on their ratings can be found here.
Our Favorite VR Workout Games
For those looking for some VR game recommendations. Here are the ones I like to use during my VR workout.
- Beat Saber – Rhythm VR game that trains my arms the most. So I usually combine this with other games.
- Audio Trip – Rhythm VR game with great flow that makes your whole body move.
- Pistol Whip – A music game that makes you feel awesome, and since you dodge bullets a lot, you will squat a lot. I use this to train my bottom body.
- Until You Fall – A procedurally generated sword fighting game that can be intense too. Moves your arms the most, but squatting is sometimes needed too.
If you want more game tips, I recommend checking out the rated games in the VR Health Life app. You can also check out this VR workout regime by Road to VR Executive Editor Ben Lang which suggests a specific routine and ways to play each game for the best workout.