Immersive Virtual Reality: 1 Way to Get Benefits of Exercise Without Leaving the Couch

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Who is This Immersive Virtual Reality For?

No, it is not to help the lazy get the gain without the pain.

What is exciting here is the potential for Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) to help heart and neurological patients, or patients hospitalized or compromised physically for any number of reasons.

In younger subjects and the elderly alike, the virtual reality improved heart rates and cognitive functioning, with only two 20- minute sessions per week for 6 weeks.

In a follow-up study, participants looked at an avatar running for 30 minutes at 6.4km/h. Self-report and physiological biomarker measurements revealed reduced psychosocial stress and anxiety. From the Tohoku University researchers:

Psychosocial stress represents the stress experienced in frequent social situations such as social judgment, rejection, and when our performances get evaluated,” says Professor Dalila Burin, who developed the study. “While a moderate amount of exposure to stress might be beneficial, repeated and increased exposure can be detrimental to our health. This kind of virtual training represents a new frontier, especially in countries like Japan, where high performance demands and an aging population exist.”

Adaptive Capacity Model

In a previous post, we discussed something called the Adaptive Capacity Model:

When we were hunter-gatherers, 2 million years ago… We used our memories to make decisions about where to go for food and how to get back home, at the same time we had to manage our bodies over challenging terrain.

If this physical/mental complexity of foraging fortified the brain then, as with any other organ — Use it or Lose it.

No surprise researchers are now thinking of the aging brain’s cognitive decline as a loss in capacity (neurons and their connections) associated with diminished use.

But even more interesting than this inextricable mind/body connection is how the mind can actually think the body into the exercise that is so good for the body and mind.

So, we’ve known for some time now that the mind and body are connected. That is, that physical exercise is good for the mind and body, and that the mind can be fooled into thinking it is exercising even if it is not. Here’s another study describing how merely visualizing exercise can help build stronger muscles.

Now More Than Ever…

But this is the first I have seen on the benefits of Immersive Virtual Reality for the kinds of work and life issues that really are stressing people in these times; namely, performance anxiety, social judgment, and rejection.

There really is a lot of information online about how virtual reality can enhance exercising environments, but I could not find what programs people are using to replace the exercising altogether.

If you can find it, please let us know. Otherwise, doesn’t matter. It’s all pretty exciting anyway — just to hear over and over again — all that is possible through the powers of our very own minds.

One client is experimenting with changing a single word in her familiar self-talk to change her mindset and her life.

Something new has been imposed on her at work, and she is replacing “Oh sh-t, this is going to be bad” with “Oh sh-t, this is going to be good.”

As Marcus Aurelius said, “Life is what our thoughts make it,” so why not, seems worth a try. Even better, she can talk to herself in the 3rd person, better for managing negative emotions and accessing her own wisdom. So that would be, “Oh sh-t, Virginia, this is going to be good.”

One word, plus her name. Sound too easy, too good and simple to be true? Well, we’ll see about that, won’t we.

Practice, practice, practice…see what happens and let us know.

Warm wishes,




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Madelaine Weiss

Madelaine Weiss

Licensed Psychotherapist, Board Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach. LICSW, MBA, BCC