In his weekly column, Android Central Senior Content Producer Nick Sutrich delves into all things VR, from new hardware to new games, upcoming technologies, and so much more.
Normally, our ThVRsday column is written by our VR expert, Nick Sutrich. However, I thought I would hop in as a guest author this week to talk about an app that finally made me start to take VR a little more seriously, and that's FitXR.
VR is a fast-growing medium for gaming, but not one that I've been particularly interested in. Granted, as someone who's into rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution, Beat Saber has always interested me as a game that is not only fun but quite a workout, easily making it one of the best Quest games of all time. It shows me that VR is more than just something to "play" with; it's a great workout tool that companies are really starting to take advantage of. FitXR is one of the fitness apps available on the Quest, and with the recent addition of Zumba, I think I found my favorite use case for VR.
As one of the best exercise apps for the Quest, there's already a lot to like about FitXR. It comes with various workout modes that appeal to a lot of people, but Zumba is the latest offering. Having first arrived on the app in November 2023, the Zumba classes are aimed at people who aren't into boxing or HIIT but want something a little more fun. I'm only used to weightlifting, so I figured I'd give it a try to see what it's all about, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Getting your groove
Getting started is relatively simple, and there are just nine classes to choose from. They're listed by difficulty, meaning you can choose between beginner, intermediate, and advanced modes, with classes taught by three different instructors. This makes it a little less daunting if you're not too confident in your "dancing" skills but also determines just how much of an exercise you're going to get from the class. There's also a tutorial so you can warm up and get familiar with the basics of how the classes work.
When you select a class, you have several different options to choose from. You can opt to include a warm-up before the actual class, which I find is a nice way to get my blood pumping early in the morning and prep me for the real workout. You can also choose to turn off the HUD with Focus Mode or turn on Community Mode to play against prerecorded sessions with other players, but more on that later.
Once you get started, you'll be greeted by the instructor, all of whom are incredibly vibrant and motivating. There's Dahrio Wonder, Sarah Burke, and Jeimy Bueno, who are all represented by an avatar on a stage in front of you. I actually prefer this to some other apps that show you live instructors, which, to me, feels a little jarring and more like "working out," although some may prefer that instead.
When you start the class, the instructor will start with fairly simple moves at a slower pace so you can get a handle on what you're doing. I appreciate that the instructor mirrors me so that it's easier to do the moves, especially since they'll eventually go faster. When the instructor is about to switch to a new move, you'll see a bubble pop up next to them with a timer and a preview of the move so you can immediately jump in without skipping a beat.
Not skipping a beat and doing the moves correctly is actually a big part of the class. As you perform moves, the app will track your hands thanks to the Meta Quest 3 controllers. The more you correctly perform a move, the more stars you'll receive until you get four stars and you're congratulated with an explosive animation. The game also captures your score so you can try to beat your own personal record.
All together now
Of course, you can also try to compete against others, which adds a fun competitive element to it. I mentioned before that there's a Community Mode, and with this on, you will see other avatars performing the same moves to the left and right of you. Since it's prerecorded, you don't really have to worry about looking like an idiot if you're having trouble keeping up, and at the bottom is a leaderboard that compares your score to the other users.
But in addition to Community Mode, there's also a multiplayer mode, where you can connect with your friends to do a class together. I tried it out with Nick Sutrich, and we were able to see each other performing the moves in real-time, much to his chagrin (sorry, Nick!).
One nifty feature that was recently added is the ability to enter a mixed-reality mode, which contains the class environment in a smaller bubble while the outer perimeter shows your surroundings. Depending on how much awareness you need, you can make the bubble smaller so that you can still follow the class while still maintaining a view of your surroundings. I imagine this is a very useful feature for parents or people with roommates.
Overall, I find the classes extremely fun. The energy of the instructor, combined with the saucy Latin music, makes this program an absolute joy to use. The music is probably my favorite part, and I love that the instructors will sing along or react to the music. The moves you follow are also "dancey" enough that it doesn't feel like I'm working out, despite me working up a moderate sweat on just the intermediate-level classes.
Start the year off right
So who is this for? I think FitXR has done an excellent job at positioning itself as an alternative way to exercise, one that costs less than it would be to go to a typical gym. Of course, if you plan to use FitXR, you'll have to pay a subscription fee ($12.99/month or $108/month annually), but it comes with a one-week free trial, so you can test it out to see if it's right for you. Plus, beyond Zumba, that monthly or yearly fee will give you access to a plethora of workout programs, such as boxing, HIIT, and the new Slam studio, making it great for anyone trying to get a handle on their New Year's fitness resolutions.
If you're not into weightlifting, or maybe you are and want to supplement your fitness with something more active, then Zumba on FitXR is a great option.
More importantly, it lets you get into the groove in the comfort of your own home. That's very important for people who aren't comfortable dancing in front of others (sorry again, Nick). With Zumba on FitXR, you won't really have to worry about strangers or even trainers watching you attempt to mimic the moves. You can go at your own pace and still work up a sweat, and the more you do it, the better you'll get.
I'm not someone who really cares for cardio unless it's Dance Dance Revolution, but since I don't have my own cabinet and the closest machine is a bit of a journey, I haven't really found myself doing much cardio over the past year. However, I've lately made it something of a routine to wake up, strap on my Quest 3, and work up a sweat with a quick Zumba class before I start work. Just make sure you invest in a good Quest 3 head strap.
FitXR brings the gym to your home with various exercise programs to get you moving. From boxing to HIIT and even Zumba, FitXR has plenty of options to choose from and is one of the best ways to workout in the comfort of your home.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.