VR Fitness: How Oculus Quest Got Me Moving (and Can Do the Same for You)

Have some workout fun again

I'm not a fitness fanatic. I'm not even close to being one and, frankly, hadn't even wanted to attempt moving much lately. Then came the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, two game consoles that were the hottest thing in the gaming world over the holidays. I tried in vain to find one for the kids but eventually realized it wasn't going to happen.

Then I remembered Oculus Quest 2.

Say what you want about Facebook; you're probably right. But there's one thing Facebook does shockingly well at times: Anticipate the future. In 2014, when it acquired virtual reality company Oculus, it bet on VR in the home as a trend that eventually caught on.

That trend became my reality when I was trapped in a home with four kids who were tired of the usual console games. I couldn't find the latest consoles on the market, and I wanted something—anything—that would entertain my family. Enter Oculus Quest 2, the most recent entry on the Oculus line that Facebook has been quietly developing and supporting for six years.

The Consolation Prize Console was a Hit

From the moment my husband and I began thinking about buying one, we were skeptical. Would the kids play it? Was the headset so weird we wouldn't want to wear it? Would the games be expensive? How easy would it be to use?

I shouldn't have worried. The second that the headset and controllers came out of the box, the entire family was intrigued. The husband went first, of course, 'testing' everything for us.

When I saw the grin on his face as he tried a free roller coaster game included with the Quest, I wanted to try it. I'm a casual gamer who primarily plays poorly; my usual goal is to be involved with the kids to keep an eye on them and know what they are playing. I don't typically play video games just for kicks.

He handed it over, I tried it on, and I was hooked. So hooked, in fact, I got up off the couch and started moving.

On a colleague's advice, we had purchased Beat Saber, a fairly simple game using simulated light sabers ala Star Wars to bat down flying blocks and dodge other obstacles. The sheer fun of the game was what got me upright; adrenaline kept me there.

Before I realized what was happening, I was swatting at blocks, ducking to avoid moving walls, and moving back and forth in my designated area.

I was having fun. Moving. ME!

Counting Pennies: Virtual Reality Is an Affordable Way to Get Moving

It turns out I'm not alone. Sales of the Oculus Quest 2 have skyrocketed for Facebook, according to various sources; partially because the price point ($299) has become affordable enough that more consumers like me are considering it as a viable, less expensive alternative to the bigger-hyped consoles from Sony and Microsoft. (Plus, you can find one in the stores.)

The games are cheaper, too: Beat Saber is $30, half the price of a standard PlayStation or Xbox game. At that price, I can afford to buy two games instead of one. Supernatural, a connected fitness service for VR, is $20 a month.

Regardless of game pricing, I think the Quest is worth the money. It's getting my entire family up off the couch.

No matter which game you buy, the best way to play it is on your feet. You can sit in a chair or on the couch, yes, but most games are best played upright, so you can easily navigate situations, skirt obstacles, or fight off enemies.

VR Workout Games for the (Parent) Win

There are dozens of games available for the Quest 2, which could undoubtedly wreak havoc on a budget. (Our family set a dollar limit and votes monthly on which new games to purchase.) What's surprised me is the kids aren't just asking for the standard video game fare available for the console.

They want boxing, table tennis, and dancing games. They're asking for games that require them to use thought along with the action, too. I still love Beat Saber, but I'm looking at OhShape, a game that's supposed to be like Beat Saber for your body. My husband wants HoloFit, a game that lets you work on your core, arm, and shoulders using three virtual reality sports: rowing, cycling, and running.

We'll be voting on games for the rest of the year, frankly, because there are so many available. What's most gratifying for me as a parent, of course, is seeing my family get moving again.

It feels like we're in a time warp of sorts, and the simple joy that virtual reality has brought to my family is like a beacon of hope that life can be fun, healthy, and active within the safety of our home.

Woman jumping into the air while playing a VR game.

South_Agency/Getty Images/E+

Embracing VR Opens New Doors

I don't know why I was so nervous about purchasing a VR headset. Maybe it was too many stories about virtual reality sickness (yeah, that's a thing, and I don't ride the roller coasters on my Quest anymore); maybe it was the ill-conceived notion virtual reality was 'hard' to use. Perhaps I thought it was too expensive, or it was a combination of all of the above.

Whatever it was that held me back, it's gone. I find myself encouraging everyone I know to give it a try. A friend told me she gave one to her older father, and he loved it, which means that virtual reality in the home is catching on with all generations.

Virtual reality is not going away. If you're looking for ways to stay healthy, keep moving, and have some plain old fun without leaving your home, give the Quest or another virtual reality headset a try. More will be on the market in the coming years (there's a rumor that Apple is working on a mixed reality version), which means it will become even more affordable entertainment as time marches on.

Fitness that's fun? Count me in.

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