Fitness

Could this cool VR gym supercharge your workout?

By Kitty Knowles 15 January 2018
Summary

The case for VR exercise.

Slacked off the annual January gym kick already?

Virtual reality could be what you need to stay dedicated.

One ‘VR gym’ company Black Box VR is already launching flagship locations in Manhattan and Beverly Hills in the US.

“Black Box combines the addictive qualities of gaming and the power of immersive technologies … to improve your fitness level and transform your life,” says co-founder Preston Lewis.

Credit: Black Box VR.

Black Box VR

Unveiled at this year’s CES technology fair, Black Box VR is essentially a resistance training machine (where you pull cords to lift increasingly heavy weights) and an HTC Vive virtual reality headset.

Instead of staring at some gym bunny’s sweat-soaked back, each chest-rep punches out a great ball of fire, or releases exotic green birds, as the machine clocks up your progress.  

Like the most addictive games, you’re rewarded for streaks (completing another workout within the next 70 hours) or beating your personal best and getting “an extra rep or two” past your expected performance.

You can even play against virtual avatars – or other gym members – to instill an even greater sense of competition, with an at-home version potentially being developed soon too.

Virtual exercise

The idea gaming can make us physically healthier is nothing new, of course.

Most sports, like football or rugby, are ‘games’, remember. And whether you love your dance mat or playing tennis on the Wii, video games have increasingly veered into workout territory.

Black Box VR founders Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis say that it was their love of active VR gaming that inspired the business, while the VR Health Institute is currently developing a Pegi-style rating system to grade games according to activity level.

Gamifying health

Earlier this month we told you how women’s health advocate Tania Boler’s brought gaming to the wellness space – getting millions of women playing smartphone games with their vaginas in the name of pelvic floor health.

And virtual reality games are already being used by physiotherapists to encourage their patients to stick to their exercises when they’re not in the doctor’s office.

“Because you’re playing a game, you don’t realise you’re exercising at all,” physiotherapist and co-founder of inMotionVR Kiki Coppelmans told The Memo.

“You don’t notice that you are rehabilitating.”

Today we lament how social media giants use game-like ‘streaks’ to keep us glued to our screens.

Here’s to gaming up activities that can improve our health.

Read more:

Want a digital ‘gym pod’ on your street corner?