Digital Health

Is VR the future of fitness?

One of the big challenges in the pandemic: staying fit. With closed sports facilities across the country, people have had trouble finding enough physical balance to work, family life and virus anxiety. But technology is giving us a positive outlook here, too. Virtual reality fitness solutions are becoming increasingly popular. A reason for our columnist Markus Sekulla to take a look at the state of the fitness league. 

Markus Sekulla at Augmented World Expo in Munich

My first Wii evening was a revelation. The movements in games like golf, tennis and other sports could suddenly no longer be controlled Gameboylike with a few buttons, but were executed with real movements. We were sweating bullets and could already imagine back then that the sports market would be sustainably enriched by consoles.

Fast forward to 2017 at the AWE (Augmented World Expo) in Munich. Among many useful (and useless) company applications for augmented - and virtual reality, I had a big wow moment here as well. The company Icaros had come up with a fitness solution that would keep my abs busy for the next 3 days. A VR Fitness Plank device, on which you could control the movements in virtual space from a plank. The virtual worlds weren't particularly sophisticated, but it was really fun and had the desired effect. However, as you can see from the photo, it was more of a solution for gyms or rich people with too much space in their homes. However, after the Expo, it was clear to me that the possibilities and ideas for VR fitness applications are huge. 

 

Invest in your own VR glasses?

Let's arrive in 2021. I came across an interview with Supernatural founder Chris Milk “The Best Thing To Do In VR Is Work Out” a few days ago and I want to  highly recommended it here. With Pandemic, Peloton and Zwift many of us have been introduced to home fitness, now the question of the Future of Fitness is occupying some big startups.

Chris Milk confirms what I have often heard in VR discussions: VR, like many other devices, needs a killer app. An application for which people are willing to make the investment of their own VR glasses. And it takes these investments to get VR out of the niche it still is after many years of cool apps.

Disclaimer, I have not tried this workout app myself, but I really can’t wait! The online reviews and tests are overflowing with praise for the world in which you are supposed to jump and swing your sword. And if you look at the promotional video, you can see why all the reviews say the app is so much fun. 

Supernatural - Have the time of your life working out

 

It’s all about motivation

Let's be honest: Why do so many people have trouble staying fit? Because it takes a lot of effort to get up for sports. Getting up from the couch, to which the inner bastard pulls you back as if with an invisible dog leash. Or the way to the gym, for which you first have to get into the car and drive through half the city. The easiest way for most of us to motivate ourselves is to keep the effort threshold as low as possible. That's what makes home workouts and apps like Supernatural so attractive. So 1 to 0 for staying home.         

“Man needs to move in space,” is what a friend of mine used to say when I decided against a run in the woods and for the gym because of convenience. And he was right. Nothing beats exercising in the air with friends. It's an experience, which is pretty much the antithesis of Peloton and Supernatural. Fresh air, a good conversation on the side, and lots of impressions for the brain. Draw 1 to 1.

Sports in your own homes with new technology is a great experience, which, if it is fun and thus provides motivation is a real addition to outdoor sports. I write addition and not replacement on purpose. Because that's not what it is for me, no matter how fancy it becomes in the future. The experiences for body and mind are too strong during a run in the woods, a bike ride or a swim in the lake. What it can already be a substitute for in my eyes are gyms that are too crowded. 

Future of Fitness?

Conclusion: Whether VR and/or AR become the Future of Fitness depends on how far into the future you want to look. In a few years, I'm sure a few more people will have glasses (or whatever you can do that with then - contact lens maybe) in their homes, but from my perspective not enough to force all gyms to close, they could of course offer Supernatural classes. How the world will look in many years? No idea, but VR has a chance…

Text: Markus Sekulla