By Adam Drake
Now that the calendar has officially switched to January, we are looking forward to everything that is coming up in fitness tech in 2015. This year will undoubtedly be the year of fitness trackers — just as the iPhone ushered in smartphones to the masses, the Apple Watch will make wearable health and wellness monitors the norm. But what we’re most excited about are the possibilities with virtual reality, a dark horse that will advance fitness exponentially.
Virtual reality has been around for decades, but no one has gotten it exactly right. The Oculus Rift seems to be the front-runner in well-executed and ground-breaking virtual reality development, with Sony’s Project Morpheus and Google’s Cardboard following closely behind. How the upcoming virtual reality craze applies to health and fitness remains to be seen, but we have some strong predictions as to how it can be applied.
Virtual Destination Exercise
Treadmills are the bane of most outdoor runners’ existence: they’re boring, they’re loud, and they don’t offer much in the way of scenery. But those of us who live in cold climates don’t have much of a choice, less we risk running in subzero temperatures through snow and ice. Now imagine wearing a virtual reality headset while on a treadmill. You’re no longer in your basement, gym, or office. Instead, you’re running along the beach in Kauai, through the trails of Muir Woods, or competing in the New York Marathon. Further, by adding a gaming component to it, you can gain points for distance and splits, chase enemies (or be chased by zombies), or run and jump through your favorite level in Super Mario Bros.
Virtual Medical School
Anyone who has played a few rounds of Operation knows how tough surgery can be. But when faced with an actual patient (sans light-up red nose), surgery is extraordinarily difficult. Imagine giving doctors-in-training a few virtual reality headsets, and allowing them to practice on digital patients. With tactile feedback, and a multitude of variables, doctors can ensure that your next ACL replacement surgery is well practiced.
Virtual Meditation Gardens
From a wellness perspective, virtual reality has an infinite number of possible applications. I’m always looking for calm areas to practice my meditation – a difficult task when surrounded by the chaos of Manhattan. Strapping on a virtual reality headset will allow you to shut out the world and escape to a darkened room, a garden, or any place to find peace.
Virtual Fitness Classes
Finally, imagine taking a class virtually via a headset. Instead of the 2D experience you get from televisions, you’re able to move through the class and study yoga poses or weight training exercises from every conceivable angle, allowing for accurate and proper regimens.
While the rest of the world is wearing their fitness bracelets and watches, we’re quietly looking forward to the rise of virtual reality fitness.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.