By Wendy Migdal
Who isn’t a fan of killing two birds with one stone? If this sounds like you, you may be intrigued to learn about some of the newer developments in home fitness that check more than one box — they’re good workouts, they can teach you something, and they’re a heck of a lot of fun.
Virtual reality headsets have been called a game-changer in the home fitness market. For about $300 and a small monthly subscription, you can hit all three sides of the wellness triangle. While that may sound like a commitment, the monthly fee is normally much less than a gym membership, and the equipment is much less pricey than some of the fancy “smart bikes” that are out there these days. There’s a big list of virtual reality programs available, so there are plenty to choose from.
Most VR fitness programs have some type of game element to them. To a family member, you may look like you’re flailing around the living room. Inside the headset though, you may be slashing at targets with your bats. “While in the headset you feel so powerful — I mean, I feel like I look like a million bucks when I’m working out. And since I can’t see myself there is nothing to tell me I am wrong. It’s a beautiful thing!” laughs Erin Pittman, Editor in Chief of Prince William Living magazine.
All of that target-slashing works on your eye-hand-body coordination and improves precision. The headsets offer what techies call “six degrees of freedom” (which has nothing to do with Kevin Bacon). This means that the headset, along with two hand controllers, can detect your movement along six different axes of rotation. Apps can calculate if you’ve hit a target and award points, helping those who like a little extra motivation.
If getting your aggression out on targets isn’t your thing, hold on, because there are more options out there. For example, you can find programs specific to learning to dance, kickbox or work on your racquetball skills. Many programs have several different elements to them: skills lessons, fun solo games, futuristic/fantasy environments or group activities where you can interact with other online users.
Pittman uses Supernatural, one of the more popular programs. She says, “I work out in gorgeous locations around the world (but actually in my living room!), move to incredible playlists, and have a number of data points to track and motivate me. I (positively) compete with friends, interact with real coaches, get frustration out by pummeling targets, try new things every day, and genuinely have so much fun.” It offers new workouts every day, includes a meditation program, and is constantly introducing new types of activities. Visit getsupernatural.com for more information.
Other apps have appealing selling points as well, though. For example, VZFit pairs with Google Street View to take you on location during a workout. Learn what the streets of Prague actually look like as you stand or ride your stationary bike, or explore the Grand Canyon. Holofit is known for being able to work with any of your existing equipment, such as a rowing machine, bike or treadmill, to take you on locations all around
If you think virtual reality might be just a little too much excitement, then forget the headset and consider trying a subscription to learn a new skill while working out. For all the activities already mentioned (and more), there are streaming programs that usually have both live and recorded classes. Learn yoga, Pilates, barre, all types of dance, kickboxing and more.
Virtual reality is great for motivation, but finding a subscription program that really teaches you skills from a great instructor can provide motivation as well. Services can keep you on track by constantly providing new workouts and helping you choose workouts to match your fitness goals.
Smart Fitness Machines
If money is less of an issue, there are many smart machines on the market today. For pairing fitness with learning something new, the Mirror is a good bet. It looks like a regular mirror hanging on the wall. As you work out, you can see both the instructor and your reflection, which enables you to hone your movements while tracking your heart rate (and which also reminds us a bit of Orwell and Bradbury novels). The Mirror
offers a wide range of activity types, and requires the initial purchase costs plus monthly membership fee. Visit mirror.co for more information.
Exercise and learning something new both provide jolts of pleasure to the brain, and unlike many other pleasurable activities, they’re both good for us. Years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine how a computer could be at the junction of those two things. But we’ve seen many things lately that we would never have expected, which happens if you live long enough. Here’s one that you just might love.
Wendy is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for local publications and also works for online educational companies.