Here at VRE we implement team building activities which all require a range of physical activities. According to previous research, these levels of physical activity can be accountable for improved physical and mental health.
What are Exergames?
Exergames are a category of video game which requires the video game player to be physically active and apply full body motion in order to play the game. More well-known examples of these games such as Just Dance and Wii Sports, which were primarily played on video game consoles which are outputted on a screen. However, these exergames are being increasingly integrated into immersive virtual reality consoles. Examples of these newer, virtual reality orientated games include Beat Saber, Audio Trip, Dance Central, Pistol Whip, and many more.
How have Exergames Impacted us?
Exergames have been seen to encourage physical activity due increasing levels of enjoyment and intrinsic motivation (doing an activity for one’s own satisfaction), compared to traditional exercising, such as going on an exercise bike (Shaw et al., 2015). Not only that, but exergames have been seen to improve mobility and balance within older adults (Pacheco et al., 2020) as well as encouraging children with autism to increase their physical activity levels (Finkelstein et al., 2010). Expanding upon this, exergames have been noted and successfully implemented in physiotherapy practises, promoting positive effects upon balance, gait, muscle strengths, limb function and dexterity (Reis et al., 2019). These benefits are thought to derive from the high enjoyment and motivational aspects exergames offer compared to traditional therapy (Smeddinck et al., 2015). In turn, these exergames have been illustrated to improve physical and mental health (Pluchino et al., 2012; Rosenberg et al., 2010).
Virtual Reality Exergames role in Improving Mental Health
Mental health disorders can be debilitating for peoples personal and work life, ranging from general stress to depression and anxiety disorders. Due to this, ways in which these debilitating disorders could be alleviated through virtual reality exergames are starting to emerge, with research highlighting that these exergames significantly reduce depressive symptoms (Xu et al., 2021). This outcome may be due to multiple characteristics of virtual reality exergames, one of which being the physical exercise required in order to successfully play the game. Multiple researchers have identified that exercise in general can aid in mental health problems due to improving cognitive function, self-esteem, and over all wellbeing (Etindele Sosso & Raouafi, 2017; Mikkelsen et al., 2017). Additionally, virtual reality exergames can be regarded as a form of video game play, with video game play also being highlighted to improve mood and decrease stress, depression, and anxiety due to their immersive, enjoyable virtual environment (Pine et al., 2020; Russoniello et al., 2017). With these elements combined and the increased immersion virtual reality offers, it would be appropriate to conclude that virtual reality exergames are extremely effective in reducing the severity of some mental health disorders, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
The Neurobiological Effects of Virtual Reality Exergames
It has been well documented that physical exercise can have positive neurobiological effects. This is due to exercising promoting changes in blood flow, oxygenation and the release of neurotransmitters within the brain, which all contribute to a decreased risk of developing degenerative diseases (Portugal et al., 2013). Exergames may promote similar effects to those of traditional exercise due to their physical requirements in order to complete the video game. Expanding upon this, virtual reality exergames require duel-tasking, meaning that the players not only have to exert themselves to the physically required level, but also require simultaneous cognitive work. During interaction with the virtual environment, players are required to use their working memory, inhibitory control system as well as implementing decision making and adaptive behaviours. Due to this, virtual reality exergames improve problem-solving ability, neuroplasticity, and executive brain function (Costa et al., 2019).
Why are these findings Important?
The conclusions drawn above are important as it highlights ways in which virtual reality exergames can be beneficial for not only individuals, but the workplace in general. Improved mood and overall mental health will result in effective work output, as well as increased communication and problem solving between employees and the workforce.
VRE utilises these research findings by including physical aspects within the virtual reality team building programmes. This should improve overall team building skills and the effectiveness of these team building exercises due to improved mood and decreased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, exergames have been highlighted to improve decision making, problem-solving and adaptation to environment, which are all key attributes to be successful within a workforce.
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