As we reported last month, gamer Tim Donahey strapped an HTC Vive onto his face and a Polar H7 heart rate monitor onto his chest to learn just how many calories he burned each time he gamed in the virtual world. Remarkably, he burned a whopping 866 calories in one hour and five minutes.
Inspired by these numbers, he set himself a fitness goal: lose weight and improve his aerobic fitness in fifty days while doing no exercise except virtual reality games.
10 minutes warming up with Longbow
20 minutes in Thrill of the Fight
20 minutes in Holopoint
10 minutes cooling down with Holoball
Fifty days later, he has his results.
Donahey lost 14.4 pounds exercising vigorously five days a week, exercising moderately one day a week by trying new virtual reality games, and resting one day. Here are his before and after images.
As you can see, Donahey looks noticeably slimmer, particularly around the midsection. More importantly, he says he feels better. In a telephone conversation, we spoke with Donahey about what he learned from his “exervive” experiment…and where he’s going from here.
Donahey shifted his routine twice.
My routine never got old. [Thrill of the Fight and Holopoint] were both excellent games. They gave me a rigorous, demanding workout. But Longbow wasn’t a good warmup after the first couple of weeks, so I switched to Audioshield. Then [around Day 40], I was sent beta keys to Sword Master VR and Bitslap.
Sword Master VR is a medieval sword-fighting game, and Bitslap is a futuristic high-speed, fast-paced, cube-punching game. I felt like Ip Man playing this game.
In that last week, I hadn’t burned that many calories per day since my first week. It was good. I think I needed that in the last week.
His weight loss wasn’t all exercise.
In a pre-written statement, Donahey wrote, “I didn’t adhere to any strict dietary guidelines like Paleo or Keto or anything like that, but I tried to make good choices. I’d choose more nutritionally dense foods over empty foods, like fries, more often than not. I drank less milk, not because milk is unhealthy (milk is awesome!) but because if I was choosing between drinking 250 cals or eating 250 cals, I’d rather eat them. I still ate cheeseburgers and ice cream on occasion, but also lots of salad. The biggest change in my diet was that I only ate things that I could count or closely estimate.”
Virtual reality can’t control my eating habits. So here’s what virtual reality fitness enabled me to do: If I hadn’t been exercising and I wanted to lose 2 pounds a week, I would have to consume 1350 calories a day, which isn’t a number I was happy with. I didn’t want to eat this little food. On “exervive” days, I was able to upward of 2200 calories, which is like a normal amount.
He may look good, but he feels better.
I feel lighter, I feel a little more graceful. Day-to-day activities prior to this, whether going up a flight of stairs or taking my son for a walk, are much more effortless than they were before. And I also feel more energized, especially on the days I worked out.
He has inspired others.
One thing I want to nail home, the most amazing thing about this whole journey is the other people this has influenced and effected. People have been constantly reaching out to me, and other people are now taking up challenges of their own. [Note: One Redditor, inspired by Donahey, is posting his weight-loss journey here.]
He has inspired himself.
I really enjoyed the games I was able to play, but I wish there was more virtual reality games that did encourage maximum mobility conducted at a fast pace. So much so that I’ve started my own gaming studio to fill that void.
Featured Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Image Credits: Tim Donahey