Can you get fit in VR?
Yes! There are some who like to say that you can’t really get fit in VR, but data prove just the opposite. In fact, there is an entire institute dedicated to studying the impact of VR exercise on the human body, the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise:
An estimated 15% of virtual reality games burn enough calories during typical play to qualify as medium to intense exercise. In metabolic testing at the VR Institute of Health and Exercise and SFSU’s Kinesiology labs, the most intense games like Thrill of the Fight, Knockout League, Beat Saber, Audio Trip, and others are capable of burning more calories/minute than most dedicated workout equipment at the gym.
See their site for information about what kind of real-world exercise different games are equivalent to (e.g. walking that burns 2-4 calories/hr, rowing that burns 8-10 calories per minute).
VR fitness games can generally be categorized in one of three ways:
- Games that are designed specifically for building and tracking fitness
- Games that simulate real-world sports
- Games that are first and foremost games but that will get you moving and will give you a good workout if you push yourself hard enough. Many of the Rhythm, Dance, and Shooting games fall into this category.
For many of you this distinction may not matter – you just want to get some movement and/or work up a sweat and have a good time doing it. For others, the ability to track fitness metrics, to get coaching from trained fitness professionals, or to train for something virtually when you can’t do it in the real world means you’ll be looking for different features.
Work out alone or with friends
One thing to consider when choosing a game is if you want the ability to work out with friends.
- Games that have a “multiplayer” or “co-op” designation allow you and your friends to team up or compete within the app
- Games with “party” mode allow you to play the game at the same time but independently.
- Games without either mode can also be played together but take a bit more coordination: you’ll need to start a party from the Oculus home screen, then go into the app together and synchronize your start of whatever workout, song, or game you’ve chosen to do. This is not as smooth an experience but is a decent work-around for the chance to have fun with your friends while getting some movement and/or working up a sweat.
Another feature you’ll see in some games is the YUR virtual fitness watch, which may be of interest if you don’t have your own fitness tracker. Some games have the watch built in (“native”) while others can use it only if you sideload the app through SideQuest.
Finally, since overall wellness includes both mental and physical fitness, you’ll want to check out apps that help you Chill Out alongside these physical fitness games.
There are so many games out there that we can’t cover them all, but read on for the ones we like best and/or we think are good for people new to VR and gaming. Only games for Oculus Quest are covered here for now, but if you have a different headset you do have several more options. One note: we hear a lot of people get a great workout from first-person shooter (FPS) games, but as none of us are big fans of that genre we’re not including them here. There are lots of other resources out there for info on those games.