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Virtual reality helps people stay fit and healthy through the block

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People who use VR headsets as a way to pass the time during lockout exercise more vigorously and feel better about life.

A new study, led by the University of Portsmouth, looked at the use of VR technology in adults of all ages around the world.

He is one of the first to investigate the impact of VR during the lockdown and is published in Health and Technology magazine.

The results were clear: those who used VR headsets as a way to pass the time while on lockdown were using them for much more than just gaming. They used the device to exercise, meditate, socialize, and watch movies.

The lead author, Dr. Alessandro Siani, of the University’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Virtual reality appears to have had a surprisingly positive impact on people’s mental and physical well-being during periods of forced lockdown.

Participants reported that ‘exertion play’ using a VR headset involved significantly more vigorous physical activity than doing it using a traditional game console. The vast majority of them also said that using VR had a beneficial effect on them health mental “.

The feel-good effect was so pronounced, Dr. Siani suggests that the technology could be part of the arsenal of tools and strategies used to improve users’ mental and physical health.

He said: “The pandemic was a watershed in human history and had a dramatic negative impact on people’s health and well-being.

“The blockades have affected people of all ages around the world. Isolation and stress have led to an increase in the number of people reporting stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion, anger, frustration and boredom.

“At the same time, the blocks have come at a huge cost to people’s physical fitness, with closed gyms and strictly limited access to the outdoors.

“Both the physical and mental tolls are heavy and will not necessarily end when the locks are released. Governments around the world will soon have to take care of the mental health and physical well-being of citizens, if they are not already ”.

The study looked at the use of virtual reality by 646 people from 47 countries at the height of the first block, between late May and early June 2020.

While most used their VR device more often for immersive gaming, they also used it almost as often for practice and exercised more vigorously than those who had a game console without VR capabilities.

Previous research showed that people who spent ten minutes a day watching a 360-degree VR 3D video felt less anxiety.

VR headsets quickly went from being a niche gadget for tech-savvy gamers, to becoming significantly cheaper and much more widely used, including in homes, entertainment, education, business and healthcare.

The ability of a user wearing a VR headset to move freely, rather than being glued to a sofa, has spearheaded a trend in exer-gaming, but its usage has grown beyond the typical gamer profile, and VR Exercise software is now widely used in physical rehabilitation and for the elderly.

Of the respondents, about three-quarters said their use of virtual reality increased during the lockdown.

Most said he used it more to pass the time while he was in block . Almost all of them, 98%, used virtual reality to play for one to four hours a day. About 75% used it for fitness (and for a period of time similar to games); 52% to socialize; 47% watch movies; and 37% to meditate.

A majority said virtual reality activities offered them an alternative way to keep fit and active while at home, and nearly all said using the technology had a positive impact on them. mental health .

Dr Siani said that although this is a preliminary study based on the participants’ self-assessment of their use of VR, further studies would be advisable to investigate the effect of using VR under monitored conditions to have a more complete view of their own. benefits. The results of this study could provide a stepping stone towards implementing VR-based strategies to support the mental and physical health of the population, even in the post-COVID-19 world.

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