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VR games like FitXR can give you a workout on par with anything you might get in the real world.
It didn’t take long for VR fans playing high-energy games like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip to realize that virtual reality isn’t a sedentary gaming experience—it’s possible to get a sweaty and exhausting workout while wearing a VR headset like the Oculus Quest. And game developers took notice, too. Hot on the heels of those energetic arcade games, some exciting fitness-focused games have emerged as well. These days, there are a handful of great options, and the best fitness games for the Oculus Quest give you a solid workout while still feeling like a game—so you never get bored or feel like you’re at the gym.
Thanks to a recent update to the Oculus Quest, the headset has become a sort of fitness tracker as well. Oculus Move is a built-in app that tracks minutes spent actively moving and estimated calories burned across all your apps. There’s no need to rely on a developer building fitness tracking into an action game—this turns every app on the headset into a fitness app automatically.
The bottom line is that the Oculus Quest has become part of your home fitness workout. In fact, it could easily be the best fitness gadget you own, because it’s a lot more fun to play a game in VR—and get a workout along the way—than to climb onto a treadmill or elliptical machine.
If you want to join the VR fitness revolution, start by getting an Oculus Quest 2. Then be sure to add an inexpensive silicone cover to keep yourself from sweating all over your headset, plus some other great Oculus Quest 2 accessories that may help in your calorie-burning efforts. Finally, start playing some of the games below—here are the best VR workout and fitness apps for the Quest.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 112
Supernatural just might be the gold standard in fitness apps for the Quest these days. It’s a purpose-built workout app, not a rhythm game that just happens to give you an energetic workout. The premise is familiar—you bat at incoming projectiles in time to music, working out your upper body. There are also flying triangles that you need to contort to fit through, which makes you do squats and thrusts.
But that’s just scraping the surface. Supernatural’s secret sauce is twofold. First there’s a cadre of human coaches who lead you through workouts with personality and, at times, charm (some coaches can also be a little grating and may talk a little too much). There’s at least one new workout each day, or you can re-play any past workout as well. They’re searchable by intensity (all workouts are light, medium or hard), music genre and length.
And that leads to the other element that distinguishes Supernatural: Unlike other fitness apps, Supernatural licenses a lot of popular music. You’re not working out to generic beats and obscure royalty-free songs; you’re grooving to actual radio hits you know and love in a wide range of genres, from rock to pop to hip-hop to EDM and metal.
Supernatural has other unique features as well. Workouts take place in breathtaking locations around the world. And the app syncs with Bluetooth heart rate trackers (like the Apple Watch, Garmin fitness watches, Polar chest straps and more) so the app can track and report your heart rate throughout each workout. It’s the only fitness app that connects to a heart rate monitor. All this doesn’t come cheap. The app is free to download, but Supernatural costs $15 per month, which gives you up to four user profiles so everyone in the family can use it.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 86
The disadvantage of many workout routines is that your body eventually adjusts and you stop feeling challenged. I guarantee that won’t happen with FitXR, at least no time soon. This app combines two different kinds of exercises in the same package—boxing and dance. You can choose either workout, picking whatever is featured that day or filtering the library of workouts to just one or the other.
And the workouts are intense. Boxing workouts require you to jab, hook, uppercut and block in response to targets moving toward you, along with occasional squats and lunges. For the punches to count, they need to be sufficiently powerful, and that makes this game more exhausting than apps in which you can “pull your punches,” so to speak, to complete the workout without over-exerting yourself. Even just 10 minutes in FitXR can leave you a sweaty mess, and it’s now an essential part of my daily workout.
The visuals aren’t remarkable, and the music is pretty generic, so the real appeal here is the game’s physicality. And though the game is $30, there’s no ongoing subscription—though you can buy some additional workout packs within the game.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to VZFit): 75
If you have an exercise bike—even an inexpensive model—VZFit can radically transform your exercise experience and distract you from the fact that you’re pedaling. To get started, you need to purchase an inexpensive cadence sensor and mount it to your bike (some elliptical machines are compatible as well), and then get a VZFit account for $8.25 per month. That gives you access to a suite of VR experiences while you ride your exercise bike.
There are games, and those might initially be the most intriguing. You can pedal to drive a race car around a track or command a tank and fire its turret to destroy other vehicles. Your speed is determined by your pedaling, and you can turn just by tilting your head.
That turning mechanic feels most natural when you use VZFit’s other experience: Riding your bike anywhere in the world on Google Earth’s immersive street views. You can choose from a preset library of locations and ride though gorgeous Midwest landscapes or quaint European cities, or plug in an address and explore your childhood hometown. The game has its own time, distance and calorie tracker in a small dashboard at the top of the screen, which is handy because the Oculus Move app won’t track your calories accurately at all (because all your work is in your legs, which the headset doesn’t know anything about).
VZFit feels like a work in progress and isn’t as polished as some other Quest games. And be careful—if you lean into turns too aggressively, you might get a hint of VR motion sickness. But if you have an exercise bike, it’s worth trying out.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 78
Beat Saber wasn’t designed as an exercise app, but it might have unintentionally inspired fitness games like Supernatural and VRFit. The concept is simple: Armed with a pair of light sabers, you need to strike incoming blocks that match the color of the saber. You also need to evade and avoid unbreakable obstacles. The game is instantly addictive, endlessly replayable and can definitely work you into a sweat. Indeed, if you don’t have a game like Supernatural, a half hour in Beat Saber is enough to get a decent workout.
While you might like the music that backs up every Beat Saber game, it’s a little disappointing there aren’t more music options. You can buy additional music packs—there’s a BTS pack, Linkin Park, Timbaland and Green Day, for example, but nothing if you happen to be a classic rock fan.
You can choose from among various difficulty levels, and your score depends in part on how much follow-through your strikes have—so while you can get through a game with minimal effort, you can gauge how hard you worked out by what your final score looks like.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 36
In some ways, Pistol Whip is Beat Saber with a gun. There are obstacles you need to avoid, which gives you some squatting and shuffling action, and you need to shoot adversaries as they appear around you. Nothing is color coded, so the cognitive load is low. Just shoot anything that moves.
The environments are the opposite of Supernatural. Instead of photorealistic vistas, you’re moving through vaguely impressionistic sketches of scenes that suggest set-piece moments from action movies. It’s the shootout in the factory, in the museum, in the graveyard, with a pounding musical score in the background.
The action is fast, and the adversaries shoot back, so you need the reaction time of a cat. The first time I played the game, I didn’t think it was much good for exercise, but upon returning to it, it quickly became clear that you can burn some calories. You’re not moving around very much—just popping up and down through squats—but your arms are constantly scanning the path in front of you looking for something to shoot, and you need to swing your arm down frequently to reload. After just a few minutes in Pistol Whip, your heart will be pounding like you have spent that time on a treadmill.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 58
Racket: Nx is like a cross between racquetball and Breakout. Positioned inside a giant dome, the inside of the wall is covered with illuminated tiles that you have to destroy by hitting with the ball. There’s a twist: The racquet has a tractor beam that you can use to pull the ball back to you, so play is a combination of swatting and retrieving the ball to take out tiles. The trick is getting the ball to roll across the wall and obliterate a lot of tiles at once.
The game isn’t designed with fitness in mind, but instead an ordinary single- or multi-player arcade-style game. That means the game makes no real effort to build you to a particular workout level, and the game ends when your health meter runs out, so your heart rate will inevitably drop during the interlude when you restart the game. But it’s a solid diversion that can distract you with a moderate workout.
Calories burned in 10 minutes (according to Oculus Move): 60
If you love dancing, there are already VR games for you like Dance Central and FitXR (also on this this list). But if you don’t like the idea of matching dance moves with a virtual avatar but still want the aerobic benefits that go along with dance, OhShape might be perfect for you.
On the surface, OhShape doesn’t look much like a dance game, and that’s what’s so cool about its approach. As you stand on a conveyor belt that brings you to a wall, you need to match your body to the body cut-out shape in the wall. There are a few other moves as well, such as the need to catch some floating jewels, punch breakable walls and sliding out of the way of others.
It’s clever, fun and easy to do—at least at first. As the game speeds up and the walls arrive more quickly, you find yourself moving in a way that, well, is basically dance. But if you prefer, you can just think of it more like you’re playing some sort of human Tetris game.
Dave Johnson has been a tech journalist since the days of the Palm Pilot and Windows 95. He’s the author of about three dozen books about tech, digital photography, small