How Holofit VR Let Me Exercise in Paris

Burning calories is better with good scenery

Key Takeaways

  • The Holofit virtual reality fitness app offers a way to travel the world and exercise at the same time. 
  • With the right equipment, the app will even monitor your pace and show you how fast or slow you are going in virtual reality. 
  • The app is meant to be paired with a stationary bike, a rower, or a treadmill.
Someone riding a stationary bike at home using a VR headset.
Kehan Chen / Getty Images

The Holofit virtual reality (VR) fitness app is the perfect escape for would-be travelers hemmed in by the coronavirus pandemic.

The app offers virtual trips to Paris and locations as far-flung as Antarctica and Saturn, while working out on a variety of fitness devices. There’s a lot to be said for taking in the scenery while working up a sweat. Like many people, I’ve had to cancel travel plans over the last year, and I’m ready for far horizons.

The basic premise of Holofit is that it transports you to faraway destinations while you are exercising. With the right equipment, the app will monitor your pace and show you how fast or slow you are going in virtual reality. 

"Unless headsets get a lot more comfortable, I won’t be using Holofit for long stretches. Until then, though, I will be enjoying short rides..."

Time Flies in Paris

I took my spinning bike for a ride down the boulevards of Paris and was pleasantly surprised by how fast the time flew by. The graphics are not as realistic as some other VR apps. Still, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, you easily imagine you are traveling while you are exercising. 

The ability to distract is what Holofit is really about, and it works. I had a great time zooming down streets in places as far-flung as Cambridge, England and San Francisco. My favorite environment to work out in was on the planet Saturn, which is a place I never thought I’d visit, especially by bike. 

The app is meant to be paired with a stationary bike, a rower, or an elliptical machine. I only had a stationary bike handy, but that was enough to find that Holofit is worth its price of about $10 per month for a subscription.

A screenshot of the VR view in the HoloFit game.

Note that it’s possible to use the Holofit app without any equipment at all by mimicking biking, rowing, or running with bodyweight exercises. The idea of these pretend exercises sounds so ridiculous that I can’t imagine keeping them up. 

For extra realism, I was able to easily hook up my bike’s cadence sensor, which allowed the app to monitor how fast I was going. There’s also a leaderboard that lets you compare your pace with other users. 

Wander or Race With Different Options

If you’ve got a whole gym full of equipment, I can imagine that Holofit would be perfect for cross-training. The company claims that there over 100 different workout options.

You can choose your own pace in modes ranging from the gentle explorer mode and timed attack, all the way up to HIIT cardio sessions and intensity race mode.

There’s plenty of room for both casual and serious exercisers to enjoy the app. At the easiest pace, Holofit was a pleasant environment to wander around in.

I biked through mountains and watched the snow fall. At the higher levels of intensity the app pushed me to my limits and I was clocking heart rates up to 180 bpm. 

"I had a great time zooming down streets in places as far-flung as Cambridge, England and San Francisco."

At the most intense setting was where I started to run into problems. The issue wasn’t with Holofit, itself, but the fact that I was sweating intensely while wearing a bulky headset. It’s the same trouble I’ve had with other VR games. 

The hardware just isn’t ready for full out exercise. I was constantly struggling to adjust the straps on my headset while I was pumping my way up hills on the stationary bike.

The Oculus started to get hot and annoying after just half an hour, and I ripped it off with relief when I was finished with my workout. 

I love the idea of the Holofit and touring the world in virtual reality while exercising is a great idea. Unfortunately, unless headsets get a lot more comfortable I won’t be using Holofit for long stretches. Until then, though, I will be enjoying short rides through European capitals or even in space.

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