Virtual Reality: Is It a Threat or an Opportunity for Your Gym?

Virtual Reality is no longer just a gimmick or passing trend – it’s more popular than ever and finding its way into a wide variety of industries, including fitness. But is it a threat or an opportunity for your gym? 

As these technologies have advanced, more and more people have been looking for new and innovative ways to get fit. Don’t worry, most people still prefer to go for a traditional gym membership to achieve their goals. But there’s a large group of VR or other smart technology fans that you shouldn’t ignore.

Consider this: VR has long required external computing power in the form of a PC or Playstation, usually involving lots of cables and huge expense. These are undoubtedly many of the factors that have kept it in the background for so long.

However, self-contained, inexpensive, and extremely easy to use solutions like Facebook’s (now Meta) Quest headset have truly brought VR to the masses; last year, their newest headset, the Quest 2, sold almost 9 million units (and that’s double the total for ALL VR headset sales in 2020).

The Quest 2 is completely self-contained and retails for £299

What can you do with VR?

VR allows users to experience workouts that are fun and engaging, while offering social interactions with other players anywhere in the world in real time.

With VR the sky’s no longer the limit – you can train virtually in any location you choose, including the moon or Mars! But more realistically, you can pick any top travel destination and feel like you’re exploring the world while you’re getting your daily workout done.

VR users might be pedalling for real on a bike in the gym, but cycling through the scenery of the Alps in their headset. Did you know that there are technologies that will vary the bike’s resistance to suit the terrain?

Additionally, VR enables people to enjoy a wide range of activities that would normally involve expense, travel, equipment, preparation and maybe danger.

Here are just a few of the ‘real world’ activities you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room thanks to VR:

      • Boxing
      • Rock Climbing
      • Snowboarding
      • Kayaking
      • Jogging
      • Yoga
      • Scuba diving
      • Basketball
      • Cricket
      • Rugby
      • Fishing

Yes, that’s a long list of exciting activities that would certainly justify spending £££ on a VR headset.

What’s it going to be: VR or the gym?

Just because your members have a VR headset doesn’t mean they no longer need a gym membership or the ongoing support of a professional trainer that comes with it.

A VR headset can take you out of your environment and put you somewhere more exciting. That’s one of the reasons why VR had such good take-up during the pandemic.

But sticking to a fitness habit requires more than just the fun element: exercisers need routine and the right programme to achieve their goals.

Never underestimate the power of human connection and the influence of your people. But don’t dismiss the power of VR technology either!

How can you introduce VR in your gym?

Fitness clubs often have the space needed for exercise and play that most households lack. You can use that to your benefit by investing in a couple of VR headsets or even inviting VR-holders to “come and play” in your facility.

In recent years you’ve no doubt seen the rise of fitness apps such as Strava, Map My Ride and Komoot. One of the reasons these apps are so popular is because they bring the concept of gamification to fitness – the addition of gamelike elements to make exercising more competitive and fun. Also, they encourage people to invite friends and family to join them in a digital community that offers support after every achievement.

Gyms should embrace the new technology and include it as part of their onboarding process. Asking new gym members whether they already use fitness and health mobile apps could give you a better idea what training plan to choose for them.

For the loyal Strava user or the buzzing VR fan, a hybrid approach to using the gym might be the best option.

PT: “Come and train in the gym two days a week and spend the third in an activity of your choice. Let’s catch up in 4 weeks and see how you’re doing.”

Now that’s a different welcome experience – one that suggests VR is a huge opportunity for your gym! 

Steve Beverley 👋

DIGITAL CONTENT CREATOR

An avid gamer and VR fan with over 25 years of game industry and graphic design experience, Steve loves all things technical or visual, and is a keen maker too. With a versatile skillset and can-do attitude, he can be relied on to get stuck-in, and to do the job well. In his spare time, and when not 3D printing or tinkering in his man-lab, he can often be found on the UK coast somewhere looking for a chippy!

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