VR for Physical Activation
Engaging in regular physical activity is great for your brain, body and heart. Physical inactivity has emerged as an important risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia1. The good news is that you can do something about this. People doing regular physical activity at all ages on average have better cognitive abilities, better brain health and a lower risk of developing dementia. Physical activity may also help maintain abilities and slow decline in people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia1. Whatever your stage of life, being fit and healthy matters. And it is never too late to start.
But for some people facing the impact of age or disability, it is not easy and definitely no fun to exercise. Science has confirmed that physical exercise in a virtual environment simply is more engaging, also for older people2/3. In our virtual reality worlds, we integrate options for simple gestures and motions using standard controllers that come with the Oculus Rift VR equipment, with the aim to trigger some light physical exercise.
People of age 60+ with physical limitations
Regular physical exercise in people with age 65-74
Regular physical exercise in people with age 75+
Recent research is indicating that simultaneous cognitive and physical exercise has greater potential for preventing cognitive decline than traditional exercise alone. Independent living older adults who exercised in a virtual reality-enhanced cybercycle for three months, had significantly better executive function than those expending similar effort on a traditional stationary bike. So it is not just more fun, it also has the potential to be more effective4.
A 2015 review of exercise and rehabilitation using gaming technology in older adults indicated similar or better effects compared to traditional forms of exercise. Few and relatively minor adverse events were reported. So also these the scientists in Norway and Germany concluded that exergaming shows promise as an intervention to improve physical function in older adults5.
Now, imagine making small rowing movements in a virtual boat on a beautiful mountain lake. Or making circular movements with the motion controllers to glide along a virtual coastline. For sure this triggers physical exercise and may contribute to well-being and vitality!
1 Physical activity for brain health and fighting dementia. Paper 36. Fight dementia.org, Australia ISBN 978-1-921570-31-5
2 Virtual reality using games for improving physical functioning in older adults: a systematic review. Karina Iglesia Molina, 2014
3 Competitive vs Affiliative Design of Immersive VR Exergames, Kiran Ijaz, 2016
4 Exergaming Improves Older Adult Cognition: A Cluster Randomized Clinical Trial, Cay Anderson-Hanley, 2012
5 Exercise and rehabilitation delivered through exergames in older adults: An integrative review of technologies, safety and efficacy, Nina Skjæret, 2015