Exercise is not on most people’s “favorite things to do” list. On a hot and humid day like we are experiencing today in Middle Tennessee, you don’t want to go outside, let alone exercise. So what can we do to get moving on this brutal days? One option might surprise you, sit and home and plug in to the virtual reality headset your kids might be playing on. We are always looking for ways around physical activity and this might be a legitimate one! Despite initially designed for entertainment, Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) has attracted interest from the academic community because of its potential use for clinical purposes, since it allows the user to experience a virtual world through a virtual body.
Physical exercise benefits our overall well-being. But for some—such as neurological patients, people suffering from cardiovascular disease, and hospitalized patients—physical exercise is not feasible, or even too dangerous. However, similar effects may be brought about using Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR).
Researchers at Tohoku University’s Smart-Aging Research Center found that looking at a moving virtual body displayed in first-person perspective induces physiological changes. Heart rates increased/decreased coherently with the virtual movements, even though the young participants remained still. Consequently, acute cognitive and neural benefits occurred, just like after real physical activity. Young healthy subjects, while sitting still, experienced a virtual training displayed from the first-person perspective, creating the illusion of ownership over movements.
Subjects were shown an avatar through VR goggles, which ran at 6.4 km/h for 30 minutes. Before and after the virtual training, the researchers induced and assessed the psychosocial stress response by measuring the salivary alpha-amylase—a crucial biomarker indicating the levels of neuroendocrine stress. Similarly, they distributed a subjective questionnaire for anxiety. The results showed a decreased psychosocial stress response and lower levels of anxiety after the virtual training, comparable to what happens after real exercise. The study demonstrated positive results for those with major health issues that were bed or chair bound, but for those of us who are able to get out of the house, I don’t think we need to give up that gym membership just yet!
The research did remind me of Paul’s challenge to young Timothy: But reject irreverent, silly myths. Instead, train yourself for godliness. For physical exercise is of limited value, but godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for the present life and for the one to come. 9This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-8) In context, Paul was reminding us that all of the physical training in the world will do us no good if we are not mentally fit. The real struggles are those of the mind and unfruitful arguments with those who seek personal glory and attention. Given the present social climate we find ourselves in, this is really good advice!
As you seek to get yourself in shape for summer, don’t forget about your mental awareness. Don’t be fooled by the useless arguments of those of this world. If you prepare both mind and body you will be ready for any challenge!
Serving the Savior,
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