Preprint / Version 1

Acute psychological and physiological benefits of exercising with virtual reality


  • Bradley Barbour
  • Lucy Sefton
  • Richard M. Bruce
  • Lucia Valmaggia
  • Oliver R. Runswick King's College London



Perception, Physical Activity, Exercise, virtual reality, perceived exertion


Exercise is a powerful tool for disease prevention and rehabilitation. Commercially available virtual reality (VR) devices and apps offer an immersive platform to gamify exercise and potentially enhance physiological and psychological benefits. However, no work has compared immersive exercise to 2D screen-based equivalents, such as following a video workout. This study aims to compare the acute effects of an exercise session using a commercial immersive VR workout to an exactly matched non-immersive screen-based stimuli. 17 healthy participants (male=7, female=10; aged 24.18±4.56 years), completed a 12-minute guided VR boxing exercise session in FitXR™ and a screen-based matched equivalent. Physiological responses were recorded continuously using a heart rate monitor and telemetricmetabolic cart system. Psychological and perceptual responses were measured using ratings of perceived exertion, physical activity enjoyment scale, and the physical activity affect scale. Participants recorded significantly higher VO2 (p=0.044), higher levels of all enjoyment subscales (p<0.05), higher positive affect (p=0.003), and lower negative affect (p=0.045) in the VR workout compared to the matched screen-based equivalent. Exercising using a commercially available VR workout offers acute benefits for chosen work rate, enjoyment, and psychological responses. VR may offer a more efficient alternative to other forms of screen based and exergaming workouts and could be offered as a gateway into exercise.


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