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Movement is essential for maintaining a health body and mind. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week for the average adult. This goal is doable, but sometimes regular exercise modalities like spinning, running and weightlifting can get boring, and you might be craving something a bit more immersive.
Sure, you could turn on the TV, listen to a podcast on your run or play a sport with friends to shake things up. Or, you could strap on a headset and get your movement in by slashing through the air with a lightsaber or swimming through underwater depths with every breaststroke. I’m of course talking about VR workouts, the latest trend in fitness tech.
What Are VR Workouts?
Google searches for the term “VR fitness” reached an all-time high in January of this year, as more people than ever before are seeking alternative methods for movement that don’t feel like you’re working out. Instead of cranking E! on the mini TV on the elliptical, you can move while playing a video game, an activity that used to be mostly sedentary.
According to the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise, as many as 15% of VR games burn enough calories to equal medium to intense real-world workouts.
Oculus and similar VR systems have a whole host of apps designed to hit the sweet spot between a video game and fitness activity, by requiring intense movement in order to win, gain points and complete levels. Before you know it, your workout is done, and you’ve got the sweat-through clothes to prove it.
We’re going to run through the best VR headsets for VR workouts, the best apps for fitness once you have a VR system, as well as some pros and cons of VR workouts in general.
VR Workouts: Pros and Cons
VR workouts are perfect for you if you hate going to the gym and love playing video games. They’re an ideal combination of the benefits of both activities: your body is in one place but your mind is somewhere else. You’re able to achieve the perfect level of distraction while still moving, using your muscles, getting your heart rate up and exercising healthy aerobic conditioning.
The pros of VR workouts include that they make exercise more fun, they distract you from the fact that you’re moving, they might require less discipline than a regular weightlifting session or outdoor run and there are seemingly endless options for the backdrop your workout can have.
The potential cons of VR workouts include the safety issue of accidentally colliding with surrounding walls and furniture, the decreased ability to workout outside and the expensive upfront cost of acquiring a VR headset.
The Best VR Headsets for VR Workouts
You can’t complete VR workouts without a VR headset. There are two main players in this space that offer fitness content on their platforms, and come at reasonable prices. There’s no VR headset specifically designed for fitness, but the systems below support a variety of games and apps that offer fitness content, as well as challenges that require intense movement within the virtual environment.
Meta Quest 2
SPY’s favorite VR headset, the Meta Quest 2, has a 5-star rating on Amazon after 50,000+ reviews and offers spectacular gaming, and fitness, immersive experiences. It has 3D positional audio, hand tracking and a library of over 250 gaming, fitness and social/multimedia titles. It’s programmed to establish a Guardian boundary around your workout area so you don’t accidentally collide with anything in your space, and it’s lightweight enough to take anywhere with you.
Sony PlayStation VR
Sony also offers an excellent VR headset with access to many of the same fitness apps as the Meta Quest, for an elevated price tag. What does Sony’s system have that Meta’s doesn’t? Well, it’s compatible with the PS4 and other PlayStations, and an expanded video game library rivaled by few other systems. We’ve included apps and potential VR workouts for both systems below.
How To Workout With a VR Headset
While the library for fitness apps on VR headsets isn’t as wide and vast as real-life workout options, there are plenty of options for VR games that’ll get you moving. Here are a few of the best ones to download on your new VR headset so you can workout anywhere, both literally and virtually, and actually enjoy the process.
BEST VR FITNESS GAME
FitXR is a VR game designed specifically for working out, with dance, boxing and HIIT classes you take with your headset. It functions like a regular workout class with an instructor leading you through a series of moods depending on the style and intensity of the workout. You have your choice of scenery depending on where you’d like the workout, and they offer new classes every day. On-screen metrics track your power, pace of movement and, of course, how many points you’ve totaled. You can also workout with friends in multiplayer mode, and compete for the high score while getting a great sweat on.
Membership Fee: $9.99/month After 7-Day Free Trial
Supernatural is another popular VR workout game that’s all about bringing the joy back to fitness, through instructor-led workouts in exhilarating locations we can almost guarantee you haven’t worked out before. The game takes you through a series of movements, from swiping to punching, lunging, jumping and squatting. It’s designed for aerobic flow, to be a full-body workout and the movements sync up with musical beats, which makes it easier to hit your targets right on cue. The app also features guided meditations as well as stretch, recovery and mobility classes too.
This app is only available on Meta Quest 2.
Membership Fee: $18.99/month After 30-Day Free Trial
BEST GAME THAT’S ALSO A WORKOUT
BeatSaber is not a VR app specifically designed to be a workout, but it involves a lot of upper body movement and can easily serve as a warm-up, cool-down or low-intensity movement. BeatSaber involves slashing through flying targets with a lightsaber using your VR headsets hand accessories, to the beat of music within a futuristic world. It’s a rhythmic game, which makes it easy and fun to follow the target movements without an instructor’s guidance, and the bright colors and graphics transport you, so you don’t feel like you’re working out.
BeatSaber is available on both the the Meta Quest 2 and PlatStation VR systems.
Membership Price: One-time game purchase of $29.99
BEST APP FOR CYCLING
If you already have an indoor incumbent bike, VZFit is the VR workout app you need to upgrade your ride with the power of virtual reality. Using Google Street View, the app enables you to ride anywhere in the world. Using a cadence sensor, you can track your mileage and speed over more than 10 million miles of roads from the shores of Oahu to the Alps. The app also offers full-body workouts in immersive locations.
This app is for Quest users.
Membership Price: $9.99/month After a 7-Day Free Trial
5. The Climb
BEST APP FOR ROCK CLIMBING
Rock climbing is a great workout for your entire body, but if you have a fear of heights actual boulders and routes can be intimidating. This app is less of a workout and more of a physical and mental introduction to the sport, complete with realistic falling if you lose your grip. You can scale peaks of all sizes within this immersive game, and use it to get a taste of what actual climbing looks and feels like.
Membership Price: One-time fee of $29.99
Benefits of VR Workouts
VR workouts can be very motivational for folks who prefer video games to movement, and have a hard time motivating themselves to do conventional exercise. They’re immersive in a way regular workouts aren’t, and can be more fun. Here are a few benefits to VR workouts, and reasons to invest in a VR headset, or try them out if you already have one.
1. They’re Immersive
The biggest perk of VR workouts is the biggest draw to VR in general, it’s immersive and fun. You’re transported to an entirely different place, or world, and completing your workout there rather than at the gym down the street.
2. They’re Distracting
Some people thrive in a workout. The movement itself is what they enjoy, and is the only motivation they need to get up and workout every day. For many people, that’s not the case. Workouts need to happen with some distraction, to draw attention away from the discipline of the movement and towards something more fun. VR workouts provide this distraction, by transporting your mind to another place, so it can’t focus on how intense the workout actually is.
3. They’re Cheaper
A subscription to a workout VR game is less expensive than many virtual fitness memberships, and certainly less expensive than access to a gym. There’s a large caveat to that in that you don’t have access to workout equipment like adjustable dumbbells, spin bikes or treadmills, but if you’re only trying to get your heartrate up for a few minutes every day, VR workouts are an excellent solution.