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Virtual Reality Headsets Could be a Tool in Enhancing Exercise Performance

01 October 2018

A visual of the VR exercise environment during testing. Source: Maria MatsangidouA visual of the VR exercise environment during testing. Source: Maria Matsangidou

A new study from EDA has found that using virtual reality (VR) could be a great tool to enhance exercise performance by measuring heart rate, pain intensity, perceived exhaustion, time to exhaustion and private body consciousness.

The study looked at 80 participants all performing isometric bicep curl sets at 20% of the maximum weight they could lift, holding the weight for as long as possible. The participants were split up into two groups.

The control group was made up of 40 participants who exercised without a VR headset. This group exercised in a room that contained a chair, table and yoga mat. The other group of 40 participants used a VR headset while working out in the same room as the control group. While the VR group saw the same environment as the control group, they also saw the visual representation of an arm and weight next to them while they were working out.

The study showed that VR allowed the participants to last longer while working out than the control group — at least two minutes longer than the control group. After one minute, the VR group reported 10% lower pain intensity than the control group and the VR group also had lower heart rates (by three beats per minute) than the control group. The researchers also saw that the VR didn’t have a significant effect on participants' private body consciousness.

The results showed promise for VR to encourage less active people to work out. The study also revealed that VR reduces the perceived pain that comes with exercising while also improving performance.

Lead researcher Maria Matsangidou said, “It is clear from the data gathered that the use of VR technology can improve performance during exercise on a number of criteria. This could have major implications for exercise regimes for everyone, from occasional gym users to professional athletes.”

The study was published in Psychology Sports and Exercise.

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