Virtual exercise, real sweat – YOU Magazine
I just did moonlight aerobics on an Ibiza rooftop with a gorgeous man with huge biceps and really tight leggings. Last week I played table tennis in a James Bond style chalet in the mountains. I even hung out with Lady Gaga in what looked like a set of The hunger Games.
How did I get so lucky? Because they’re not actually real – they exist in my Oculus Meta Quest 2 headset (from £299, oculus.com), which I tested. Never heard of an Oculus? It’s a virtual reality (VR) contraption that looks a bit like sci-fi goggles, and when you put it on, it transports you to a 360-degree fantasy world that feels so real, it’s like you’re there. actually were. When I put the headphones on today, I found myself in South America, standing by a beautiful vacation home, with birds flying in the blue sky above and rush mats under my feet. It was so convincing I could almost smell the sunscreen.
VR headsets started out as an immersive gaming experience, but are now a huge trend in the fitness world, where you can box with a virtual personal trainer, learn street dancing, meditate, and join classes with others. I’ll be honest, as someone who writes about the benefits of getting outside to exercise and has never played a video game in their life, it’s not something that has ever seduced. Besides, isn’t all this a little “young” for a 46-year-old man? But then I tried. First, it’s impossible not to be wowed by the hyper-real graphics that move the way you do. When I play table tennis against a cyber opponent, it’s a really skillful game.
One of the most popular apps to download once you’ve got the headset is FitXR (£7.99 per month, fitxr.com) where you can train with virtual boxing, cardio or dance trainers. You not only choose the type of exercise you want to do, but also the location.
How does it compare to an actual gym class? This is a difficult work. I squat and lunge, my heart rate quickens, I’m out of breath and I’m sweating – a lot. And with levels ranging from beginner to advanced, there’s a workout for everyone. The only downside I would say is that there is no one to correct your form which could lead to injury.
Another hugely popular app is Beat Saber (£22.99, beatsaber.com), where you slash colorful boxes that fly at your head with a Star Wars-style lightsaber, while dodging other obstacles. There are plenty of stories on the internet about how it helps with mental focus but also encourages weight loss – one fan in particular lost 138lbs in a matter of months. How did I find it? I liked it. I felt part dancer, part Princess Leia, part Katniss Everdeen. And that’s the best thing about virtual reality: you can do things you can’t do in real life – it’s like being in an action movie.
If this all sounds terribly futuristic, it is. However, exercise gamification is growing rapidly – last month saw the launch of Lanebreak, the virtual cycle lane from home exercise brand Peloton that challenges you to pedal harder and faster to improve your physical condition. With celebrity instructors and brilliant music, Peloton has managed to make fitness not only fun, but also help you forget you’re working out.
Would I buy the Oculus for myself? In other words, if I ‘bought one for the kids’, you might find me, lightsaber in hand, borrowing it while they’re at school.
The right intestinal guide
In his new book Great Gut (Yellow Kite, £14.99*) Cardiologist and best-selling author Dr William Davis explores how processed diets, pesticides and overuse of antibiotics have damaged our microbiome. It includes a four-week plan to reset our gut, flush out the good bacteria and flush out the bad, while rebooting our emotional health, promoting anti-aging, and encouraging weight loss and better sleep.
*To order a copy for £12.74 until March 27, go to books.mailshop.co.uk or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.
A greener cleaner
According to research, harsh cleaning chemicals are not beneficial for lung health. They also end up in sewers and our rivers, which is why I loved using Purdy & Figg’s Eco-Concentrate Surface Cleaner Starter Kit. For £15 (purdyandfigg.com), it includes a reusable glass spray bottle and a shot of Eco-Concentrate (which comes in three essential oil scents). To use, simply add the concentrate to the bottle and top up with tap water.