Virtual Reality itself has many benefits for the mind and the body. Now let’s take a peek into how exercise, in general, helps our minds. It is proven that getting up and moving has a profound impact on how we process information. After all, we only recently have evolved the world to allow a more sedentary life as a human being. Not long ago we were living in the wild and leading a very hand-to-mouth existence. We were constantly moving and as a result, we were constantly exercising our bodies, and without really knowing it our minds as well. Here are just a few examples of how exercise increases the functionality of our brains.
Increase Blood Flow!
It is probably not going to be a surprise to many people, but exercise increases our blood flow throughout our entire body. This, in turn, results in our brains literally getting “smarter”. Our brains roughly use about 15% of our entire body’s blood supply at all times. When you consider that our brain only accounts for about 2% of our entire mass you can see why that is quite a substantial percentage. Our brain is made up of sensors that decipher electrical impulses, which are called neurons. As our brain uses these neurons they require a lot of oxygen to function. Blood vessels are how our brain receives oxygen from our lungs. When these neurons are working blood flow increases to these areas to the brain has plenty of O2.
As we exercise our body of course increases the flow of blood throughout our bodies. This ensures all our parts have what they need to keep us going. This results in our brain reacting by creating more blood vessels. This way neurons can function better and have access to their much-needed supply of Oxygen. So as we exercise we are building up our brain’s ability to function better. Working out also helps maintain what blood vessels we already have already. This ensures they are able to send blood throughout the body to maintain our existence and promote better overall health.
Exercise using virtual reality allows you to not focus as much on the exercise and focus more on the fun of enjoying a game or experience. So it is a lot easier to make Virtual Reality Fitness a part of your regular routine. So gone are the days where video games are damned for being “bad for your mind”, welcome to the future where video games can help stimulate your body and mind through exercise. Not to mention the other cognitive gains found in gaming. So going a few rounds in Thrill of the Fight VR Boxing, or doing a few routines on BoxVR not only will help trim the waistline it will help “bulk” up your brain. Who says video games are a waste of time?
We have established how exercise can increase our neuron’s ability to function and grow. This leads to our brains being able to grow and maintain a functional size. A lack of exercise has been linked to a decrease in the mass of our brains. Specifically the regions responsible for memory. This is especially true for people that are older. A mere six months of exercise, even at lower levels of exertion, have resulted in the brain’s volume increasing and has helped people regain their functional memory.
The hippocampus is the area in our brain that our ability to remember comes from. Since we are more or less designed to move a lot this area of our brain can actually start to shrink due to inactivity. It has been shown that walking alone can help increase the size of our hippocampus and therefore our ability to cognitively function correctly increases as well. So really any aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate helps our memory both young and old people have proven this to be true through a series of studies.
It is also important to note that exercise helps prevent dementia and not just a “little bit”. There are many factors that can cause dementia in a person and a lot of how it develops in people is uncertain. What is certain is that people who physically exercise have a 31% decrease in the risk of develops dementia.
Virtual Reality Fitness is almost purely aerobic. Of course, there have been some advancements in the areas of incorporating resistance training into VR exercise, for the most part, it’s almost all about increasing the blood flow in the body. Of course, it’s not just the workout that helps stimulate a good memory, games have been proven to help increase people’s ability to recall information rapidly. Memorizing patterns in games like Beat Saber helps you get a higher score. It also trains your brain to process and recall information instantaneously. Participants of studies involving Virtual Reality and how it relates to memory have shown that those using Virtual Reality experience an 8% increase in their overall memory performance.
Decreasing overall Stress
Stress is something that affects the entire body, and it also has a very negative impact on our brains. Stress hormones are good when we need them. Like when we are facing a fight or flight situation. Most of us do not face those on a regular basis. A lack of exercise increases stress hormones in the body. According to a Harvard Study on Exercise and Stress:
The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over. (Harvard)
This helps ward off depression and anxiety which unchecked can lead to a whole host of other problems. Such as the inability to rest or get sleep. It can also lead to irritability, and for some it can even result in higher blood pressure. We have always had the ability within us to help reduce our levels of stress hormones. All we have to do is exercise!
Virtual Reality has the added benefit of taking us out of the exercise and putting us into an immersive experience. Since we focus on the immersive experience we often lose track of time and exertion. However, the benefits of VR are not limited to the physical realm. Studies have proven that VR alone has shown to help decrease stress:
After two decades of intense research, VR has been established as a powerful tool for the treatment of a variety of psychological and behavioral issues. In particular, controlled studies have already shown that this technology increases the efficacy and efficiency of the most traditional relaxation techniques. (RelaxVR)
Exercise is great for the body and does a lot for our brains. Exercising in Virtual Reality gives us a lot more advantages and access to even more benefits than traditional exercise alone. So the next time you put on your headset you will be doing your brain a favor. As much as you are your body.