Virtual reality exercise bike workouts are not new, but these became extra popular during the pandemic. And if you are into indoor cycling and have not tried them before, it’s high time you do!
Virtual cycling is a cross between pedalling and video gaming. It’s engaging, addictive, and 100% fun.
According to Tim Searle, Australia’s first rider to log 200,000 km on Zwift, virtual cycling positively transformed his daily workouts. It made training convenient and safe for him, no matter the health status or weather conditions outside. Plus, it allowed him to interact with people with the same interests.
Indoor cycling alone is already beneficial to health. So, it’s interesting to know how technology can boost its benefits further and make this exercise even more enjoyable.
Keep reading to learn why you should try virtual cycling and how to start.
What is Virtual Cycling?
You’re probably used to cycling indoors while staring at a bare wall or your console to monitor your stats. There’s nothing wrong with this but traditional cycling sessions can become less motivating when you do them every day.
One way to spice things up is to try virtual reality exercise bike workouts. Virtual cycling is connecting your equipment to an app or a VR headset. Either option allows you to exercise while passing by scenic views, as if cycling outdoors.
In the past, virtual cycling involved pre-recorded routes only, which you can play during workouts.
Thanks to constantly changing technology, virtual cycling is now far more engaging, allowing you to explore realistic destinations in a 3D environment.
A VR-compatible bike would also respond in real-time, adjusting its speed and resistance based on your chosen virtual terrain. You can even chat with other riders logged on to the same VR system.
But why use a stationary bike for this fitness innovation? Developers find the exercise bike the ideal instrument for virtual reality because it doesn’t take up space.
It makes the technology accessible to anyone with a small home gym and internet access. With a stationary bike, the user can safely appreciate the moving virtual world around him while staying in one place.
And now that virtual cycling works even with a television, riders can do it without buying a VR headset and suffering from motion or VR sickness (Chang et al. 2020).
How Can Virtual Reality Improve Your Exercise Bike Workouts?
With virtual reality incorporated into stationary bikes, you might think that this form of cycling is only for young and tech-savvy riders. Contrary to that thought, virtual cycling is for all ages.
Surprisingly, studies show that even older adults can gain a lot from virtual reality exercise bike workouts. Here are some of them.
1. It enhances workout performance.
A screen or video to look at while pedalling is one way to boost your alertness and concentration. When these elements are present during workouts, virtual cyclists become more determined to give their all and finish the route.
Mestre and colleagues (2011) explained that video feedback, speed, and music contribute to riders’ performance and attentional focus.
Specifically, they noted that video display speed (e.g., riding on a course slope) is proportional to the participants’ pedalling speed. Video music enhances their long-term commitment to the cycling task.
2. It boosts motivation.
Gamified programs in some virtual cycling apps are exciting and enjoyable, especially when you do them with other riders. Due to this positive feeling, users are more driven to perform well and stick to an active lifestyle.
Researchers observed this among elders and adults with neurological disorders. Specifically, the participants find the aesthetic aspect of VR cycling appealing (Rojo et al., 2023).
This finding indicates that this technology can motivate patients to adhere to their lower limb training activities more.
An online dissertation also had a similar conclusion. Liu (2021) stated that immersive virtual reality exercise can effectively motivate college students to counter physical inactivity.
3. It supports mental wellness.
Regular indoor cycling and intense workouts are physically demanding. And the bodily stress can affect your cycling performance.
With virtual reality exercise bike workouts, you’re putting the fun in an otherwise strenuous activity. And in turn, it motivates you to keep going. Qian and team (2020) support this. They said that, compared with traditional exercise, VR-based exercise led to more positive psychological outcomes.
Specifically, it can help ease fatigue and depression and induce calmness. Researchers even considered virtual reality exercise a good non-pharmacological approach for enhancing the cognitive and motor functions of mild dementia patients (Zhu et al. 2021).
4. It encourages competitiveness.
Some virtual reality exercise bike workouts let riders compete in races, join group rides, or play against their mates. Aside from making the routine fun, it can bring out your competitive streak and encourage you to push yourself harder.
Experts call this “indoor cycling with social facilitation”. One study tested this mechanism among adults using a virtual reality-enhanced stationary bike with interactive competition and avatars.
The researchers concluded that virtual social facilitation can boost the participants’ pedalling effort (Anderson-Hanley et al. 2011).
How Do You Get Started with Virtual Cycling?
Without a doubt, virtual cycling is a fun exercise variation to burn calories, boost your heart health, and strengthen the muscles.
And so, the next step is to set up your VR cycling space at home. Here’s how.
1. Find a designated virtual cycling area.
Look for a fitting space at home for your virtual bike. Ideally, the area should have windows for natural light and proper air circulation.
A room with a door or a soundproofed area is also best since virtual reality exercise bike workouts can be noisy.
2. Prepare your VR cycling essentials.
The virtual bike is the most vital component. And for this, you can use either a stationary bike or a bicycle you can secure with a trainer.
Whichever option you choose, remember that the equipment has to work with your preferred VR cycling app. You’ll need a built-in or external screen (computer, laptop, or television) for the app videos.
When choosing a VR app, look for one with a wide range of programs for different fitness capacities. Make sure to have a stable internet connection to keep the app working and tracking your progress.
3. Add accessories for optimum VR experience.
You can skip this last step. However, if you want to bring the outdoors in and make it appear you are in an actual race, why not complement your daily VR workouts with complete cycling gear?
Wear indoor cycling shoes and clothes. Then, attach a clip-on fan to your bike for a makeshift outdoor breeze.
Daily indoor cycling can quickly become monotonous, and doing the same routine is no good for your fitness goals.
So, switch things up with an exciting, fun, and diverse exercise variation like virtual cycling.
Aside from its extra health benefits, anyone can perform virtual reality exercise bike workouts, even in a small area at home.
And you don’t have to invest in an expensive headset or virtual reality bike. Start with a good-quality exercise bike instead and look for a VR app that works for you.
Don’t miss the chance to try this fitness innovation and enjoy indoor cycling even more.
Related Questions About Exercise Bike Accessories
1. What exercise bike accessories do I need to enhance my virtual cycling workouts?
Prioritise exercise bike accessories that make your workouts comfortable, efficient, and progressive. Some examples include a heart monitor for zone-based cycling, a tablet holder for syncing to fitness apps, and a bike computer to monitor your performance. Also, consider getting an exercise mat, gel saddle cover, clip-on fan, and indoor cycling shoes.
2. Should I sync my exercise bike to a fitness app?
Syncing to an indoor cycling app is not essential to being fit and healthy. However, these apps can benefit you and enhance your overall training experience. For example, it keeps your workouts more engaging. Its extensive workout library also keeps your cycling routine diverse. And with workout diversity, it’s easier to stick to your active lifestyle and steer clear of fitness plateaus.
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