Virtual reality is a fun and innovative way to exercise indoors


Students view southern France through virtual reality headsets in a demonstration hosted by the Department of World Languages and Cultures.

Margaret Troup

Just because gyms and parks are temporarily closed doesn’t mean exercise is a thing of the past. With these virtual reality games, at-home workouts can be both fun and doable.

Virtual reality (VR) headsets are the newest and most sought-after additions to video game consoles. While there are many immersive, beautiful and even scary games for VR, the games with the most practical use are meant for exercise. Video games as exercise may have once seemed counterintuitive, but now this is a concept of the past. 

Cloudhead Games’ “Pistol Whip” is one example of an exercise-centered VR game. After being released on Steam in 2019, the rhythm-based shooter garnered immediate glowing reviews. This game does not have a specific plot, but instead it centers around the player being propelled through various environments while catchy music, of which the player is encouraged to shoot their in-game pistol at various targets on-beat to, plays all around them.  

“Pistol Whip” is not a high-intensity exercise, but is more suited for players who want to headbang while getting on their feet every once in a while.

A more intensive exercise game is Beat Games’ “Beat Saber.” This VR exclusive came to consoles in 2018. It currently holds a 10/10 score on Steam and its popularity has only seemed to rise since its release. 

“Beat Saber” is similar to “Pistol Whip” in that it is a rhythm-based VR game. The difference here though is the directions the player needs to follow in order to remain on-beat to the songs. Similarly to old “Dance Dance Revolution” games, players must both hit the targets on-beat as they appear to them while also striking them in the right direction with their hand controllers. Missing too many beats or directions will abruptly end the song.

There are additional settings to make “Beat Saber” more player-friendly, such as activating the “no fail” option where the song will continue no matter how many hits are missed. Additionally, the song difficulty level can be adjusted. Most songs that come with “Beat Saber” have “Easy,” “Hard,” “Expert” and “Expert+” modes where the intensity of the rhythms and speeds vary based on player ability.

One man who can attest to “Beat Saber’s” uses in exercise is Robert Long, a player who used the game to lose almost 140 pounds. In his original Reddit post, Long explains his workout routine.

“Now, load it [“Beat Saber”] up and then set a timer for 35 minutes,” Long said. “Thirty minutes for workouts and five for relax time and quick stops for 30 seconds to catch your breath and select a new song. But, do not do an hour at once. I have, and I did burn 1500+ calories in that one workout, but yeah. Recovery was [not] fun.”

“Beat Saber,” when played on the higher-intensity levels of difficulty can be a very extreme workout. For players who are just starting an exercise routine, take Long’s advice and do not overdo it.