Coronavirus and health: How VR video games bought me to train

Like a New Year’s resolution that was never to be kept, I woke up March 13 with big plans: every morning when I stayed home, I would exercise for at least 30 minutes. Then I decided to start this on March 14th. It was soon the first week of April. It turns out I’m pretty good at making excuses, all under the guise of “self-care”.

So, I did the next best thing: I turned to video games.

Such a statement isn’t as weird as it was in 2007, when Nintendo’s Wii Fit was all the rage. Training has finally become playful, be it through our apps that track our steps or through high-quality, screen-based devices like a peloton bike. And Nintendo’s most recent “Ring Fit Adventure,” which is hard to find and sometimes doubles or triples its prince for $ 79.99 on eBay, is an absolute delight. “Ring Fit Adventure” is an adventure game that encourages us to combine cardio activities with a Pilates-like ring. It is cheerfully encouraging when we fight a mean dragon.

I haven’t been in the game for a few months, but Ring Fit Adventure is a surprisingly skilled personal trainer. Many of the upper body exercises are completed by pulling the ring in and out so that it can mimic the activities normally associated with a resistance band. But it also encourages us to take breaks, and if we miss a day or two, the difficulty is reduced. I appreciate its illusion of consciousness and that it is less rigid than throwing a video.

And yet there is a very small negative in “Ring Fit Adventure”. It’s not the game’s fault, it’s my mind. It lives on the Nintendo Switch, which is also home to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. And while I can only speak for myself, Animal Crossing was of course a savior when it comes to alleviating fears and worries during this time. His trait is irresistible.

Home fitness faces many hurdles, of course, as anyone with a bike or treadmill, which is most commonly used as a place to dry clothes, can attest. Should I just resign myself to regaining the 30 pounds I lost last year and just worry about it after the pandemic ends? That was the path I was on, at least until my home desk (it’s a couch) put my lower back into a red alarm panic mode.

I had to find a way to move. And right now I probably wouldn’t get any exercise without virtual reality.

Moving around within the headset has resulted in my most intense workout in months, so I’m planning on canceling my gym membership on the other end. While I’m far from being the first to discover that virtual reality is a great place to work out, I’m a little frustrated that it took me so long to realize it. Finally, some of the lightsaber moments in “Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series” could certainly break a sweat.

“Beat Saber” is probably the best-known VR workout as it has been on television late into the night and has partnered with a number of major pop acts. It’s good to get your body moving and get your heart rate up. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, when my schedule goes according to plan, I hop around my kitchen and swing wildly – only what I see is a tunnel with a cyberpunk Aesthetics. I could easily spend 40 minutes in this world.

The VR practice game “Supernatural

The VR exercise game “Supernatural” is intended to enable users to do full-body training in virtual reality. The new game, available for Oculus Quest, uses a subscription model for $ 20 per month. Credit: Inside


The fact that I was able to use a game like Beat Saber for a cardio workout came as a bit of a surprise to me, just because the only downside to VR is that I can’t see myself. However, this turned out to be the biggest benefit of VR workouts. I don’t want to see me Even alone with “Ring Fit Adventure” in front of my TV, I am aware that I move like a madman in my family room. VR allows me to get out of my own head. In other words, if I can’t see myself, I’m not ashamed.

For training, I use the Oculus Quest, which is sold out. But it’s cordless, and at a cost of $ 400 or $ 500 cheaper than some high-end fitness equipment. Other than that, the main purpose was entertainment more than fitness, although that may change, at least if the recently released “Supernatural” from local tech company Within catches on.

“Supernatural” was specially developed for training in VR and destroyed me in the best possible way. In contrast to a more playful experience that even encourages you to swing and move, “Supernatural” offers you a virtual trainer and transports you into postcard-worthy visual landscapes. Think of the New Guinea Islands, the Grand Canyon or the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia.

I especially like the volcanoes, because against the background I can pretend I am training to be a Jedi. However, this is not National Geographic. While the settings are nice, they work largely in such a way that you don’t remember that you are home.

The movements are similar to other rhythm games such as the aforementioned “Beat Saber”, in which the virtual foam-like swords are used to swing circular objects that come towards us. “Supernatural” also throws in lots of triangles that you can use to do squats or lunges. Because of my back problems, I’ve worked with physical therapists so I know how to modify some of these movements so that they work within my capabilities.

While “Supernatural” requires a subscription of US $ 19 per month, I managed to make myself as sweaty and sore as I did at the morning boot camps. I’m not someone who gives certified fitness advice – after all, I sometimes have Swedish fish sweets for dinner – but one of the benefits of Supernatural is the presence of trainers who are filmed to appear in front of you. The full 360 degree movement in VR ensures that I move as I directed.

What surprised me most, however, is that after a few days in Supernatural, my arms felt like I had done 100 pushups. I found this to be an odd sensation considering I was only holding the Oculus controllers and not the weights. But Within worked with professional coaches to guide players into behavior that uses all their freedom of movement, rather than just trying to get good at the game.

The VR practice game “Supernatural

The VR exercise game “Supernatural” is intended to enable users to do full-body training in virtual reality. The new game, available for Oculus Quest, uses a subscription model for $ 20 per month. Credit: Inside


Although the app supposedly adjusts the placement of its objects based on the quality of movement, I didn’t try to play the system in full, so to speak. I just know that “Supernatural” is still challenging me after a few weeks. According to Aaron Koblin, co-founcer, as players improve, most rhythm games have actually resulted in worse workouts because they understand how to move to win rather than how to burn calories.

“That’s not the same goal as creating something that focuses on big healthy moves – follow your swings – the kind of thing that gets you more from the success of the sport than the success of the game,” says Koblin.

After two weeks, when “Supernatural” managed to get me off the couch, my back pain decreased. By the end of these homework assignments, I hope to produce a fully trained Jedi. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

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