VR Fitness Offers Similar Cardio Benefits to Running, Study Finds

A study by the University of Victoria found that certain VR workouts on the Supernatural app were comparable to running and boxing when it comes to energy expenditure
Virtual reality (VR), long thought to be primarily of use for entertainment purposes, is now receiving academic attention for its fitness benefits.
The University of Victoria in Canada (UVic) conducted a study to evaluate the impact of VR fitness platform Supernatural’s workouts on energy expenditure.  
In the study, led by Dr. Ryan Rhodes at UVic and co-authored by Tabitha Craig and Dr. Yoah Sui, participants engaged in Supernatural Flow, a full-body cardio workout, which was discovered to have similar cardiovascular benefits to running.
Similarly, Supernatural Boxing mirrored the intensity and benefits of real-life boxing, according to the study. At a medium intensity, the VR boxing was comparable to activities such as bicycling, sparring or aerobic dancing.
The study recruited adults aged 18-40 who had no previous experience with virtual reality and leveraged a methodology called “breath-by-breath analysis” to determine energy expenditure. The study listed tech giant Meta, owner of Supernatural, as a “collaborator.”
“There is a common misconception that workouts have to be a no-pain, no-gain situation,” said Leanne Pedante, Supernatural’s head of fitness. “This study proves that you can experience the joy and fun that many report feeling in their Supernatural fitness routine, without compromising in terms of energy expended.”
credit: Supernatural

The study is good news for the millions of Americans who struggle to get the recommended 75 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. As health issues like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and strokes continue to be prevalent, accessible and fun cardio workouts are more important than ever. VR workouts show the potential to fill this market need, appealing in particular to consumers who might prefer video games to boutique fitness classes. 
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Supernatural also recently announced that it is adding a mixed-reality (MR) feature, so users can work out while keeping their physical surroundings in sight. The app’s coaches can “appear” in one’s living room to guide warm-ups, workouts, and cooldowns with Passthrough. 
Meta first announced its intent to acquire Within, the studio behind Supernatural, in 2021. However, the $400 million deal was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to the tech giant’s possible monopolization of the virtual reality fitness space. Meta eventually prevailed, with its acquisition of Within getting finalized in 2023.
The move signaled the tech giant’s intent to invest heavily in the VR fitness space. Major fitness brands like Xponential Fitness and Zumba are available on Meta Quest 3, the tech giant’s popular VR headset.


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