VR Gaming Improves Stability and General Health (At Any Age!)

We reported that gaming in VR can dramatically improve your fitness. Research supports this fact and that is exactly why you are here. But what if I told you that in addition to your fitness and general health, gaming in VR could also improve your balance, no matter how old you are? Sound like something you’d like to learn more about? Well, read on!

A new study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that virtual reality games can play an important role in helping users find balance. The study examined the effects of training with a Swiss ball compared to virtual reality exercises on the participants’ balance.

The researchers studied 30 people who were randomly divided into two groups: one used Swiss Ball training to improve balance and the other used VR games. Each group exercised for 30 minutes three times a week for about two months.

The results were surprising as most would expect that the instability and subsequent tension of the secondary and stabilizing muscles when exercising with a Swiss Ball would be the clear winner for balance training, but it wasn’t. While the researchers found that stride length and average speed increased significantly for both groups, and the time for up and go decreased in both groups, it was the VR group that had a greater reduction in fluctuation length and ultimately the VR gaming experience the most improved. Does that mean the Swiss Ball is not working? No. In fact, it works great. But this study found that VR works better.

Regular exercise (and VR fitness games) has a huge impact

Researchers have long understood that regular exercise and physical activity can help everyone in every age group with walking, balance, mobility, and muscle strength by increasing their functional skills. Studies conducted prior to this study have shown that there are certain physical activities that are of greater benefit than others when it comes to improving balance, including:

  • Focused and repetitive training
  • Reality-based training (functional training)
  • Sports training
  • Motivational intervention with active participation
  • Force-Induced Movement Exercise
  • Visual and auditory exercise feedback
  • Goal-oriented training
  • Task-oriented training

Unfortunately, while these training methods are effective, they don’t seem attractive enough to tackle the global obesity epidemic. Recently, there has been a daily increase in the number of virtual reality options that offer interactive simulations that mimic reality (or create an altogether alternative experience) and that tend to motivate users more than the standard activity options. In essence, VR gaming users can participate in activities they enjoy without the risks in the real world or having to be in a specific location to participate.

Another study conducted by the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy furthered this research when they published a study showing that postmenopausal women saw greater benefit from exercising in VR than using a Swiss Ball, a popular instrument for urogynecological rehabilitation. Other studies have shown similar positive results specifically for seniors who primarily need improved balance.

Further research on the many advantages of VR matching or the suppression of regular physical fitness continues to flow. The researchers are hard at work trying to determine whether the results are the same for all individuals and whether the results have long-term effects. You also want to investigate how different environments affect the outcome. Ultimately, however, the research already available clearly leads experts and researchers to conclude that providing VR exercise programs for everyone would be beneficial.

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