VR for a Healthy Body & Mind

As 2020 nears its end and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep more and more people housebound, isolated, and lacking access to their usual activities, it’s easy to let a mental and physical fitness routine fall by the wayside. Contrary to the beliefs of some, gaming and VR won’t automatically mutate users into couch potatoes and, in fact, can offer plenty of opportunities to exercise both mind and body. Stepping into Virtual Reality as an escape from lockdown doesn’t need to be pure entertainment, as many VR users are now discovering.

Playing the virtual reality game Beat Saber can be good exercise
Image: Beat Saber

When the layman sees someone kicking ass in a hyper-energetic VR game involving full-body movement, that VR user is likely playing Beat Saber, the best-selling rhythm game that’s something like Dance Dance Revolution with a Jedi’s lightsaber. Arguably the most visible VR game in the world, Beat Saber (available for SteamVR, Oculus VR, Playstation VR) can provide highly varied physical workouts, all timed to the work of a growing roster of musical artists including Imagine Dragons, Timbaland, and Green Day. Players slash through glowing cubes using a virtual laser-sword in a neon-dappled VR space in solo or multiplayer modes, the latter being about as close as many gamers will get to a traditional arcade DDR showdown amid social distancing. Not only huge fun, but Beat Saber is also proving to be quite an effective workout.

A VR Journey Within

Beat Saber offers enjoyable workout opportunities to the homebound VR user – and it’s far from the only game or app to do so – but maintaining mental health has been a fairly common trial during 2020. Depression rates among US residents have more than tripled since the arrival of the COVID pandemic yet VR offers some assistance to those aiming to keep themselves thinking clearly and acting mindfully during such an uncertain and troubling time.

Breath controlled VR meditation app, Deep
Image: In-development breath-controlled VR meditation app, Deep.

From meditation to martial arts with apps like Tripp and Guided Tai Chi, to yoga instruction, VR zoo visits, and virtual hiking via Wander, the serenity of nature both internal and external can be found with VR’s help. Not only believed to combat depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins, such moderate physical exercise as a light stroll along a virtual beach or a brief yoga session can be crucial to keeping yourself sane with so much uncertainty around. Those who wish to explore their own minds at a deeper level will find no shortage of opportunities in VR, from the obvious (intensive meditation experiences) to the abstract (fractal patterns to accompany unguided self-reflection).

The opportunities provided by VR may currently be undervalued by all but super-fans and enthusiasts but with an increased need for alternate ways of staying healthy in the COVID era, there’s a real focus on VR and what it uniquely brings to the table.

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