It is a pretty obvious to most people that our preferred leisure activities have reduced the time we spend being active. Kids, as parents lament, are glued to their parents’ ipads. We spend less time outdoors, less time walking, and more time sitting in front of screens. Perhaps you, like me, remember the odd feeling when you first heard about the Wii; “you mean…you’re playing a video game AND working out? What kind of sorcery is this?” People marveled about how they could break out a sweat and have fun at the same time.
Consider this; when we sign up for a gym membership we probably will never use, we do so not just because exercise is effective preventative medicine, but because it makes us look good, be happier, and feel great. Yet, many people (myself included) are less than thrilled with the activity itself. How boring is running on a treadmill? Or where is the rush, I ask, in lifting a dumbbell up and down thirty times? While there are those who enjoy working out, most people do it for the benefits. And why should they enjoy it? A typical gym workout lacks adrenaline, excitement, competition, or mental stimulation.
Personally, I get the most pleasure out of activities that engage both my mind, body, and adrenal glands. This is one reason many people enjoy playing organized sports. However, in our daily lives, mind and body are often disconnected. We are either repetitively doing reps in the gym, or getting our adrenaline fixes from video games.
So now meet Icaros. Ostensibly it is your average exercise machine. However before getting on, instead of readjusting some weights, you put on a virtual reality headset. You then play a flight simulator, using your body’s core muscles to move the machine. I haven’t tried it myself, but according to the DailyMail, it is really fun, and you get a good workout.
But Icaros and other companies offering similar products are only the beginning. As the VR industry works out its kinks, these types of machines will certainly become more advanced and interactive. Different games and styles to work out different muscles; mega all-in-one machines that combine intense cardio with heavy weight lifting. When you go to a gym, it will be more like an immersive arcade experience. Instead of increasing your number of reps, games will be campaign style, where you can increase your workout with each progressive session. Imagine a world where you are excited about your workout. Or better yet, imagine a world where the concept of “working out” is foreign to us.
The other thing to look out for is augmented reality exercise games, where real life is blended with the virtual. We’ve already seen this, without really noticing. Where? Pokemon Go (or Ingress, for you AR hipsters). Pokemon Go, at its core a *very basic* technology, actually got people out of their homes. Instead of chasing pokemon, in the future people could be running around playing first-player shooter games with virtual terrorists on real rooftops. Sounds like a good way to get that heart rate up.
No matter how advanced we get, we will still need to keep our bodies healthy. Expect to see more technologies emerge that unchain us from our couches, rather than keep us on them.