Heart patient owes recovery to a VR app

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VR fitness as a lifesaver: Heart patient owes recovery to a VR app

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Erick Gallun is convinced that regular use of VR fitness apps helped him recover from a life-threatening heart condition.

Psychologist and researcher Erick Gallun believes he survived a life-threatening heart condition because he regularly exercised with a VR fitness app. He shared his story with NBC Today.

Becoming a fitness fan thanks to Supernatural

During the 2020 pandemic, Gallun came across Supernatural and was immediately impressed by the outdoor setting, music, coaching, and variety of workouts offered. He used the VR fitness app to stay physically fit during the lockdown. After just three months of training, he noticed a significant improvement in his strength and endurance. He enjoyed Supernatural so much that he used it regularly for the next two years.

In December 2022, however, Gallun suffered severe chest pains and confusion. A CT scan in the emergency room revealed a tear in his aorta, which required immediate surgery and carried a high risk of death. During surgery, surgeons discovered that the entire aorta had torn. Nine hours of surgery followed.

Although the surgery was successful, Gallun’s recovery was complicated by the large incision from his neck to his abdomen. Initially, he needed a walker and was unable to walk far. Over time, he began cardiac rehabilitation and walking on a treadmill.

“I did that for three days a week for three months, and then I was finally able to graduate from cardiac rehab and start my own workout regimen. It was not too long after that I was able to do Supernatural again. I posted a video of myself just crying with joy,” Gallun said.

Rehab with Supernatural

Today, he hits the treadmill three times a week for 50 minutes, does weight training to rebuild his muscles, and trains for ten to fifteen minutes with his favorite VR app, Supernatural. Without the physical fitness and athletic ambition he has built over the past few years with VR Fitness, Gallun would probably not be able to recover as well as he has.

“Two and a half years of doing Supernatural very regularly didn’t just give me the ability to be strong. It gave me the ability to see myself as somebody who was athletic, which I wasn’t before. I really credit Supernatural with giving me that view of myself,” Gallun says.

Erick Gallun’s story shows the positive impact VR fitness can have on physical and mental health. A study published in the summer of 2023 also showed that VR fitness can support recovery after surgery. Patients who completed VR fitness exercises alongside standard treatment had a shorter hospital stay.

An active lifestyle: VR fitness makes it easier to get started

Immersion in the VR headset makes exercise more accessible and entertaining for some people, as they are guided through various exercises in a fun way. The combination of exercise and entertainment can be a real motivator for those who don’t enjoy going to the gym or doing the same old exercises on the treadmill.

The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable: it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health problems associated with an inactive lifestyle, and can also help reduce stress and promote general well-being.

For those of you interested in getting started with cardio training in VR, here is a quick guide to getting started:

  • Mobile VR headsets such as the Meta Quest 3, Quest 2 or Pico 4 are best suited for VR fitness as they work without a cable to the computer or console and therefore offer more freedom of movement.
  • Current VR fitness apps often offer boxing moves, squats, and sidesteps. There are also apps that specialize in dance moves, such as Les Mills XR Dance.
  • Along with Supernatural, FitXR is one of the leading VR fitness platforms, offering virtual gyms with different classes on a subscription basis. I tried FitXR for a year to see if the subscription was worth it.
  • If you are looking for a subscription-free VR fitness app, I recommend Les Mills Bodycombat. Rhythm games like Beat Saber or Synth Riders are also great for a varied VR workout.
  • If you prefer to work out with equipment, check out apps like Octonic, which can sync mobile VR headsets like Meta Quest with treadmills or rowing machines.

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