Thanks to Coronavirus, the gym is closed. Going outdoors isn’t always possible. How are fitness junkies going to get their fix?
Virtual reality can be a good option.
Last night my Apple Watch told me I was about 150 calories short of my daily burn. It was 8:30PM, dark, and raining. So I pulled out the Oculus Quest, started an “Other” workout on my watch, and started slicing shapes with virtual lightsabers.
Beat Saber is a VR game on Facebook’s Oculus Quest platform in which you slice oncoming shapes with virtual lightsabers. What’s interesting about Oculus Quest is that it’s an affordable VR system that you don’t have to connect to a PC — what I called a game changing device last year.
That means it’s quick, easy to start up, and has no wires to slow you down or trip you up.
You can literally be up and running in VR in a minute or two.
And the beauty of VR is that although you’re playing a virtual game, there’s a lot of reality that intrudes. When starting a session, you confirm your physical boundaries, so the virtual game takes place inside those real constraints. To play Beat Saber, for example, you have to move left and right, swing, duck down, and generally get reasonably active.
My resting heart rate is in the 50s. This workout wasn’t overly strenuous, but did provide a peak rate of 107 and an average of 86: similar to a brisk walk on mostly flat ground.
This isn’t the only option for quarantine or lockdown fitness, of course. Many gyms and trainers have set up ways to deliver the benefits of movement even when you can’t physically be present.
“The physical world has gone digital,” says analyst and author Jeremiah Owyang. “My physical CrossFit gym HomeGrown Fitness has set up daily Zoom sessions, and a Slack channel like a modern tech business. There are live streamed classes led by certified instructors, and the community talks about the workouts in the Slack channel.”
Physical meets virtual meets physical, Owyang says. The result is that we are alone, together, working out.
Or, in my case last night, just alone, working out. And filling up my calories-burned total for the day, even when I couldn’t go to the gym and didn’t want to go outside.
Another friend has Peloton, which is great if you like cycling (and have a lot of spare cash for the machine and monthly subscription) and also follows workouts on YouTube. Another friend dances along to YouTube DJ videos on a yoga mat. The new Half Life game is apparently a great workout, although it doesn’t run on standalone Oculus Quest headsets.
One man even lost 50 pounds with the VR game Soundboxing on a different platform, the HTC Vive.
Quest is my personal favorite, thanks to its relatively affordable price, around $400, but others have figured that out too. The device is currently out of stock at the Oculus website and many other online retailers and people pick up equipment for home fitness use.
Perhaps soon Apple will have a VR Workout setting on the Apple Watch, and we won’t have to select ‘Other” for the workout type.