Digital Actuality Boosts Efficiency and Reduces Ache

When you walk into someone who is exercising with a VR headset turned on, they might look pretty ridiculous. Perhaps you would silently judge them for random, uncomfortable movements. If this describes you, a study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise may make you regret this quick judgment: the results suggest that VR can indeed play an important role in exercise performance, helping people overcome physical ailments .

In the broader world of VR-related drills, companies like Virzoom have constructed elaborate scenarios – let bandits in the wild west, ride Pegasus – but the VR game used in this study wasn’t that much fun: it was an exact replica of the actual one Laboratory, right down to the mild gray walls. T.

Images from the very boring VR game of the experiment

What researchers at the University of Kent in England lacked in imagination they made up for in results. The study’s authors found that participants who exercised with a Samsung Galaxy Gear VR headset took an average of about a minute longer than control groups during a “continuous pain task” – essentially a test where participants held a dumbbell for as long as possible stationary. The VR subjects lasted an average of 5.34 minutes, with the control group lasting an average of 4.14 minutes. Interestingly, the VR group also reported 10 percent lower pain intensity scores during the task.

The study’s co-author, Alexis Mauger, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, wasn’t surprised by this finding, as his previous research has already shown it can be quite small Outsmarting Your Brain -Technique:

“A few years ago I conducted a study in which we used the mirror box technique to trick subjects into thinking they were lifting a lighter or heavier mass than they actually were,” Mauger tells Inverse. “When we did this, they had less or more pain and their performance was better or worse.”

According to Mauger, VR represented a natural next step for his research by creating an immersive world that could further fool the senses. But Mauger had another hypothesis, which he believed might diminish the power of VR, based on the idea of ​​”private body awareness” (PBC). In their work, the team defines private body awareness as “awareness of inner body sensations”. Mauger hypothesized that VR might not be a helpful distraction for people who were very aware of how their bodies felt during exercise.

His experiments have shown that this hypothesis is completely wrong.

“Since PBC is a measure of your own awareness of internal sensations, we would expect someone less aware of it to have limited responses to the VR intervention,” he says. “This was not the case and VR was equally effective regardless of PBC. However, this is good news as VR could be deployed on a wider scale than we initially thought. “

Although this finding suggests that VR is playing an even bigger role in exercise performance than he had anticipated, Mauger adds that figuring out how VR games improve performance is more difficult. The authors take up this question in the work and suggest that visual cues could play a role. In the VR game, subjects did not see their forearms trembling from exhaustion or their hands flushing with color as blood flowed to their aching biceps. You just saw a stable virtual arm holding a weight:

“Another possible explanation for why VR was effective at reducing pain and perceived exertion in our study was that participants embodied the simulation and felt the virtual hand as their actual hand,” they write. “When this was the case, VR hid visual stimuli that could be perceived as signals of pain and exertion.”

Mauger says his team could pursue this idea, but in the meantime, this study provides a rare example of a shortcut to improve athletic performance. If you’re looking to lift bigger, these early results show it’s time to join the simulation.

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Email the author: emma.betuel@inverse.com.

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