Why VR is Perfect for Cycling and How it Can Transform Your Workouts in More Ways Than You Think
Cycling is a highly effective and popular way to burn fat, improve fitness and tone muscle. It is an example of ‘concurrent training’, which in simple terms means it combines cardio exercise with resistance training, thereby increasing the challenge and the results. Cycling is low impact and is something that everyone can do. For the most part, it’s even rather fun!
However, there are just a few issues that prevent cycling from being the perfect form of exercise.
First of all, cycling requires a bike. Bikes are expensive and need space to store as well as somewhere to ride them. Then there’s the weather’s issue: fun though cycling is, it rapidly loses its appeal in torrential rain or blizzards. Indoor cycling solves some of these problems but can be boring for some and essentially involves sitting in one spot and staring at the wall for 40 minutes or more.
Luckily, technology has offered us a solution: virtual cycling. This is the perfect marriage of fitness and technology and its benefits are unlimited.
What is Virtual Cycling?
Virtual reality is all the rage at the moment thanks to devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. These are headsets that you can strap to your face in order to enjoy a fully immersive multimedia experience. But while VR is a highly promising technology, it also faces a number of different challenges. Input is one, space is another and ‘VR sickness’ is a third.
So VR is taking its first tentative steps in the worlds of gaming and commercial computing, but it has been making waves in the fitness industry for some time now. Specifically, virtual reality has been helping to make stationary bikes less dull and more effective by letting gym members feel as if they’re actually cycling around real environments.
Now, instead of cycling on the spot and staring at a blank wall, fitness club members can watch scenic views go by and feel like they’re actually riding outdoors. They can dictate the speed and direction of their ride and see the response in real-time.
This is normally accomplished by using large immersive screens that envelop the user’s view, while reading input from the bike. Historically, this would involve a simple pre-recorded route that would play at different speeds as the user cycled. Today though, technology has progressed to the point where more advanced systems allow riders to steer and explore truly 3D surroundings.
The best part is that a stationary bike provides the perfect form of input for virtual reality as an activity in which the user remains in one place while the world moves around them. This removes issues with limited space and sickness while still providing a feeling of freedom. Companies like Spivi brings this technology right into the cycling studio using fully 3D interactive environments, making real VR accessible for everyone and thereby driving interest in stationary bikes among members.
The Many Benefits of Virtual Cycling
Virtual cycling offers many of the benefits of riding outside and none of the negatives. Fitness club members can stay warm and dry while exploring locations both real and imaginary. Want to explore some of the world’s most exciting cycling routes? No problem! Or how about experiencing what it might be like to actually ride on the surface of the moon? With virtual cycling, anything is possible and it’s only up to the developers to explore all of these possibilities.
Having something to look at while riding doesn’t just make riding more entertaining but can actually improve performance by increasing awareness, concentration and effort. In fact, some forms of virtual cycling even include video games, played by steering the handlebars and using the pedals. This further motivates the rider and makes exercising more enjoyable, rewarding and sometimes even addicting.
Other programs can add a competitive element by letting users race others on the tracks. This can actually lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment via a process called ‘social facilitation’. We’ve all felt ourselves pushing harder at the gym due to a competitive spirit and drive to be the best – imagine the power of actually being able to see other riders gaining on you on the track.
Spivi in particular, makes use of virtual cycling’s limitless potential by introducing virtual instructors who can guide gym members along their workouts and provide encouragement and advice through set programs and workouts. Even better, this system is able to utilize feedback in order to adapt the training to metrics such as heart rate, performance, and demographics.
Virtual Cycling: The Future of Fitness
Virtual cycling is rapidly developing while adoption grows among fitness studios and gyms worldwide. This is a technology that has a chance to make training more efficient and more enjoyable for millions of people.
By combining guided sessions, a virtual environment to ride in and a feedback loop that responds in real-time to a trainee’s performance, systems like virtual cycling are finally managing to bridge the knowledge gap between casual gym goers and professional athletes.