- Jodie Brinson claims VR workouts could be beneficial if you cant get to a class
- She explained a computer can't motivate in the same way as a fitness instructor
- Rosie Green gives her verdict on virtual reality exercises available in the UK
Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all had to rethink our lives — how we meet up with friends, go to the shops, work and keep fit.
Who’d have thought so many of us would end up doing daily workouts with mop-haired social media star Joe Wicks?
Home exercise has become an inevitable fixture for many, but it turns out online fitness may already be passé. The buzz now is all about Virtual Reality (VR) exercising.
Don what looks like a diving mask with a screen in it and enter a mindblowing alternative world. I borrowed my friend’s set and asked her 16-year-old son to set me up.
I hadn’t tried VR before and was sceptical, so I borrowed my friend’s son Luke’s set. I was amazed by the quality of the graphics. You really are transported to another world, whether it’s doing gentle Tai Chi or conquering a snowy peak.
But does VR fitness feel rewarding? And can it really keep you fit? I asked trainer Jodie Brinson her thoughts on whether VR could deliver a worthwhile workout.
She said: ‘A trainer or instructor will be able to motivate you in a way a computer never can. But when you can’t get to a class, I can definitely see the benefit.’
After trying a range of games I can confirm VR fitness isn’t quite a real class, but I was wrong to be dismissive of it. Like online fitness, it has its place.
So I will be putting a headset in my shopping basket (the market leader is the Oculus Quest 64GB VR Headset, £399, argos.co.uk). There are cheaper options. The Bnext VR headset is a bestseller on Amazon for £44.99 and compatible with smartphones. Download it from the App Store.
ACHIEVE INNER ZEN
What is it? Guided Tai Chi.
How much and where from? £8, oculus.com/experiences/quest.
Fun factor? Less about fun, more about relaxation. The soft voice of the instructor, the tweeting birds, the slow steady movement and stunning scenery invokes calm.
Fitness factor? If you want to feel the burn, this is not for you. But if you want to increase mobility, balance and posture — yes.
Risk factor? The chance of injury is pretty much non-existent.
Verdict: Computer fitness games are often the antithesis of relaxation. This Tai Chi experience turns that on its head. It combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements.
Originating as a martial art in 13th-century China, Tai Chi is practised by millions as a stress-relieving, posture-improving, balance and mobility-increasing activity. Brilliant for all ages.
The graphics are stunning and you can transport yourself to more than 20 locations. I found myself on a sun-drenched beach. In front was a Tai Chi master leading the moves and two orbs showing me which way to move my hands. It was easy to follow and I liked the fact you could do a short session.This was calming and feel-good. And although I’d still rather be doing it with others in a cherry blossom-filled park, this came a pretty good second.
IF RAIN STOPS PLAY
Rosie said her heart rate increased substantially within 30 minutes of using Racket NX (pictured)
What is it? Racket NX.
How much and where from? £14.99, oculus.com/experiences/ quest.
Fun factor? Exhilarating, but intense. Like being inside a pinball machine.
Fitness factor? My heart rate increased substantially and I worked up a sweat. Do it for 30 minutes and you’ll get a good workout for your shoulders and arms as well as lower legs.
Risk factor? Be warned: you move around a lot. Check your space is clear. You also wave your arms around, so be wary of walls and handsets — the two things can get damaged if they meet — not to mention ornaments.
Verdict: Ah, tennis! White outfits, green grass, muscular, tanned opponents and glorious weather. If that’s your dream, then the VR version will disappoint. It’s ‘arcade’ rather than Wimbledon — more squash than tennis. You are in a giant glass dome, the walls of which light up with targets you must destroy with the ball.
The controller becomes the racket and the ball gets fired at you, bouncing from the walls.
You do get the satisfaction of forehands and backhands and you have to concentrate so hard that you forget daily worries.
I’d just love it to be prettier.
FOR A JOYOUS MOOD
Rosie said Beat Saber (pictured) is easy to master and very satisfying, revealing she achieved a good workout
What is it? Beat Saber.
How much and where from? £22.99, oculus.com/experiences.
Fun factor? Highest of them all. Easy to master and very satisfying. The endorphins fly.
Fitness factor? Pretty good workout which feels incidental.
Risk factor? Play it for 30 minutes and you’ll have sore shoulders and arms.
Verdict: Admittedly, Beat Saber is not technically a dance game, but it relies on music to dial up the enjoyment.
You enter an arcade-style world and blocks fly at you, forcing you to use your controllers to slice through them and win points.
Moving to the rhythm feels good. It doesn’t seem like exercise, just life-enhancing fun.
Almost without knowing it you move side to side, your arms stretching, reaching and slicing, your legs lunging and squatting so you get a full body workout. It doesn’t feel as physical as the boxing (see below), but users report a calorie burn of seven per minute. And the kids will love it.
TO RELEASE ANGER
Rosie said she was able to work up a sweat and feel an endorphin rush from BOXVR (pictured)
What is it? BOXVR is a boxercise VR game where you jab, weave and uppercut your way to fitness.
How much and where from? £22.99, culus.com/experiences/ quest.
Fun factor? Great fun. The combination of the pulsing music and the satisfying slicing movements keeps you engaged and time flies.
Fitness factor? I definitely worked up a sweat and I felt the endorphin rush. My shoulders and legs ached afterwards. Your heart rate gets satisfyingly high.
Risk factor? You need to make sure you clear a decent space around you (recommended 6.5ft by 6.5ft) and remove any pets from the vicinity as you move a lot. I found this out the hard way when I stood on my poor puppy.
Verdict: I love a boxing class. The joy of landing the punch, the interaction with the person holding the pads, the feeling of strength, the release of frustration.
I was sceptical that a VR game could deliver the same benefits, but this turned out to be my favourite. You don’t fight an actual person, but are transported to what feels like a conference centre with a big screen.
Balls come firing at you that you can punch, jab, uppercut and slam. Each hit you successfully land rewards you with an explosion and some points. And even for a 46-year-old this is joyous.
It gave me a full body workout and really made me sweat.
FOR ARMS LIKE MICHELLE OBAMA'S
Rosie said The Climb (pictured) transports you to another world, but because you don't use your legs it didn't feel like a satisfactory workout
What is it? The Climb.
How much and where from? £22.99, oculus.com/experiences/quest.
Fun factor? Mind-blowing. The graphics transport you to another world. There is something in the slow ascent that feels good mentally.
Fitness factor? It’s more of a series of arm-stretching exercises than anything else. I don’t think you’d get a true aerobic workout, but you should give Michelle Obama a run for her money when it comes to beautifully-toned arms.
Risk factor? If you suffer from vertigo, looking down is not advised. And plummeting to your visual death might be panic attack territory for some. Make sure you have enough room to raise your arms above your head to avoid injury by bashing them on a pendant light.
Verdict: As soon as I put the headset on I was blown away by the amazing graphics. I was transported to a blue lagoon with dragonflies fluttering around me and mountains rising up into azure skies. The controllers become disembodied hands (a bit disconcerting), and it takes a while to suss out how to use them to grasp onto the finger holds.
But the fact you don’t use your legs meant it didn’t feel like a satisfactory workout to me.