During the pandemic, many people have put on weight. Being quarantined in one’s home with very few open and/or safe gyms or exercise centers, it seems that exercise is one thing we cannot do. However, there are many new ways to exercise that have been opened by technology such as virtual reality or broadcasts and other fitness products.
With virtual reality, one can enter a simulated space of any size regardless of the actual space available to them, much like the movie Ready Player One. This allows the user to experience several different workouts in the space they have available to them, in a way reminiscent to that of playing Wii Sports in front of a TV. With the advent of full body tracking, users may also track how many calories they burn and other statistics about their body/workout session. With enough space to stand up and swing one’s arms, someone can have a virtual workout session.
Broadcasting fitness programs may seem like a blast from the past, but they can still have very effective workouts. In the 1950’s workout programs on TV were very popular as they allowed one to experience all the movements they would be doing in person from the comfort of their home. Now, many fitness youtubers have virtual workout regiments that often target specialized parts of the body. One popular example is Chloe Ting, who uploads videos on how to slim down and regain your abs. While following along with the videos, the user can also take a break and adjust to their needs. Many of these follow-along videos simply require a yoga mat or similar surface and very short amounts of time.
Many fitness products have been popularized throughout the pandemic as a more passive way to regain your pre-quarantine body. Ab-stimulators and posture trainers have become much more mainstream. Ab-stimulators claim to use electricity to stimulate your abdominal muscles and tone them. Posture trainers are placed on one’s back and vibrates slightly to remind them to sit up straight. Both of these are much more passive than following a workout or similar actions, but are they as effective?
With closed gyms and small living spaces, many struggle to find adequate workouts regiments that suit their needs. VR workouts have been present for several years, but have recently become more accessible with lighter/wireless technology. Many games utilize a competition or score system to incentivize users to be more active.
BoxVR is a virtual boxing game available on several VR platforms that combine boxing classes with arcade punch machines and arcade shooters. After taking a stance, the user must hit, block or dodge obstacles that approach them. Essentially, this is Beat Saber but with boxing gloves and a lot more movement.
The majority of VR workout games use hand tracking, as the controls are normally in one’s hands. BoxVR attempts to make this a more full-body experience using obstacles that require you to duck, and specially positioned targets demanding different types of punches that use different muscles. Additionally, the game also gets one to change their stance occasionally, allowing for different hip and leg movements.
As for how effective the workouts are, the responses are wide and varied. However, the general consensus is that the workouts are not meant to make the player a boxing master or a better sparrer in real life. These workouts are centered towards giving the player a good experience with doing cardio workouts and perhaps improving their responsiveness and overall fitness levels in an exciting way.
Workout broadcasts can come in many shapes and forms. TV workout programs exploded in popularity with the innovation of the VHS tape. They were mainly targeted towards working people in the house, and made it easy to follow along.
Now, with more advanced technology, workout broadcasts are everywhere. There are many apps, such as Nike Training Club or Adidas Training and Running. These apps offer free audio/video guides and many workouts that train specific body parts. As millions download these apps, the entire global interactive fitness industry is expected to grow by ~$5.44 billion dollars in the following 4 years. Many companies, such as Peloton, or also experiencing big increases in sales and downloads.
Interactive classes have moved from studios to Zoom meetings, with many finding the accountability of a class more productive than exercising by themselves. Additionally, instructors can continue to earn some income during these tough times with often low prices to the students. Unlike following a workout video, these zoom classes encourage the participants to show up on time, turning on the camera, and actively participate, which prevents them from what many would normally do: follow for 5 minutes, then lie down on the couch to rest, and stay there.
Youtube workout videos have also been rising in popularity throughout the pandemic. There are many youtube channels on the internet that target specific parts of the body with different exercises and regiments. Additionally, many have made new videos specifically geared towards the pandemic. Chloe Ting and Blogilates are great examples of these, as they also discuss the diet aspect of losing weight/maintaining a fit body. However, some of these youtube workouts often require equipment that many do not have in their household.
Many fitness products are available, claiming to have effects like: “Get abs in 2 weeks!” or “Burn 10000 calories per day!”. However, many of these have very subtle or inconspicuous effects on one’s body. For example, the previously mentioned ab stimulator claims to use electricity to stimulate one’s abs and tone the muscles. However, many have mentioned that either this product only tones existing muscle, or that it simply has no effect on the abdominals. So, when shopping for fitness products, watch out for technology that seems just too good to be true.