Virtual-Reality Fitness Brands Are Designing Immersive Workouts

Estimated read time 5 min read
  • Extended reality is bringing immersive, personalized workout experiences to the fitness industry.
  • Leaders at four fitness brands told BI their extended-reality services helped them reach new users.
  • This article is part of “Build IT,” a series about digital tech and innovation trends that are disrupting industries.

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In the summer of 2018, Rachel Z., who goes by the alias OtterWorldly online, started streaming herself playing the mixed-reality fitness game “Beat Saber.”

Videos showcase her virtual saber skills as she slices digital blocks to the beat of songs such as Blackpink’s “Kill This Love.”

The gamified, competitive nature of virtual-reality fitness apps “transformed my workout routine,” she told Business Insider. “They provide variety, motivation, and the ability to track progress, which keeps me engaged and consistent.”

A woman smiles while holding a VR headset above her head

OtterWorldly, a VR content creator.


Extended reality is steadily changing exercise and fitness. It involves virtual reality, which immerses users in a computer-generated environment; augmented reality, which overlays digital visuals onto the real world through the use of devices like phones and AR glasses; and mixed reality, which blends real and virtual worlds.

Business Insider spoke with leaders at the fitness brands Puma, Les Mills, FitXR, and Supernatural about leveraging extended reality to provide tech-driven workouts.

Shifting perceptions of fitness technology

Puma this year partnered with Meta Quest 3 to launch immersive mixed-reality workouts in the metaverse. People with a Meta Quest headset can participate in virtual exercises including boxing and Zumba.

“People can actually try different types of workouts that they might not try in the real world because maybe they don’t have access to it where they are,” Ivan Dashkov, the head of emerging marketing tech at Puma, told BI. “I’ve never boxed in my life, but in VR, boxing workouts are my favorite.”

Some people with so-called gym anxiety or a fear of being secretly recorded and shamed online have leaned into virtual-reality workouts. “People may not think of technology as something you work out in, but VR can break down those barriers,” Dashkov said.

A bearded man smiling and wearing a black shirt

Ivan Dashkov, the head of emerging marketing tech at Puma.

Kathryn Przybyla

Dashkov acknowledged there’s a learning curve. “I think a fun challenge in the space is that the general Puma audience might not necessarily have adopted some of these new technologies yet,” he said.

He recalled seeing people’s perceptions of VR workouts change at a launch event for Puma and Meta Quest’s partnership earlier this year. After putting on a headset and working out for about 15 minutes, attendees had an aha moment, Dashkov said. “They didn’t expect to be sweating, because they think it’s like a video game,” he added.

One deterrent, however, is the look and feel of the Meta Quest headset: Its size can make it cumbersome. But Dashkov told BI he expects the headsets to become less bulky and eventually “be like a pair of glasses you’re wearing where things will be projected on top of them.”

Adapting to consumer needs

Les Mills is also using extended reality to create peer-reviewed, research-led exercise routines, such as strength training and yoga. In December, Les Mills launched a virtual-reality fitness game designed to bring holographic dance professionals into a Meta Quest user’s home.

Lisa Edwards, Les Mills’ digital innovation director, said the game’s development required the company to adapt to connect “a global community of fitness enthusiasts.” Three years ago, when Les Mills met with developers, the technology was more rudimentary; putting time and resources into extended-reality services was a risk.

A woman smiles with her arms crossed

Lisa Edwards​​​​, the digital innovation director at Les Mills.

Les Mills

Edwards said the company read customer reviews and analyzed users’ activity dashboards to inform business decisions and keep up with “the changing needs of our users.”

“We do keep a really close eye on a lot of the data that we get back from both our own developers and Meta,” she added.

Engaging a broader audience

Sam Cole, the cofounder and CEO of FitXR, an extended-reality wellness company, told BI the fitness industry needed to focus on reaching people beyond those who are exceedingly active or don’t have restricted mobility.

Cole said his experience of dealing with an injury to his Achilles tendon a year ago showed him that “you get to a certain age, and you start to realize the importance of balance in terms of physical and general health.”

headshot of a bald man smiling and wearing a charcoal gray sweater.

Sam Cole, the cofounder and CEO of FitXR.


Cole said FitXR’s workouts focus heavily on balance while “taking the core ingredients that make group fitness great” and merging them with “highly immersive, highly engaging visuals” that encourage participation.

Leanne Pedante, the head of fitness at Supernatural, a virtual-reality fitness service, described a person who she said used immersive workouts for mobility.

A woman smiles while sporting a cropped workout top and leggings

Leanne Pedante, the head of fitness at Supernatural.

Lindsey Byrnes

The person, Pedante said, struggled with their weight and used a wheelchair to get around. She said that taking exercise classes on Supernatural’s platform helped them work toward using a walker. “That’s the kind of stuff that’s happening in VR,” she said.

Cole acknowledged that while some people lack enthusiasm for or don’t trust VR because it’s still a relatively new technology, he believes that “the perceived limitations are more problematic than the actual limitations” and people will have to try VR for themselves to find out.