Icaros: A flying workout
The German University of Sport has investigated whether full-body exercise in virtual reality is suitable for training and therapy.
Epidemiological studies show significant coincidences between sitting time and the incidence of chronic diseases. This applies to both children and adolescents. Lack of motivation is one of the biggest obstacles to physical activity. The solution could be Icaros: a flight simulator that, combined with strenuous effort, promises fun while keeping you engaged.
Icaros is a training device that makes the classic forearm (board) exercise more dynamic because it is flexible. The motion sensors on the swinging metal frame detect the direction of the user lying horizontally in the device in a prone position – and translate them into virtual reality (VR). A pair of VR glasses and a large screen make you feel like you're really flying. "Ideally, Icaros can be used in prevention and rehabilitation because both in prevention and in motion quality therapy, it is a key part of effective, health-conscious strength training," says the study leader. Boris Feodoroff, a scientist at the Movement-Oriented Institute for Exercise and Prevention and Rehabilitation.
He and his team had 33 men (all under 30, BMI below 25, between 170 and 190 cm tall) who flew twice every five minutes to discover what effects a VR-based training system had on their cardiovascular system and which has the potential for effective endurance training. Other points of attention were symptoms of cirrhosis (motion sickness), perceived exertion, and factor in the respondent's amusement.
Subjects flew above mountain ranges and needed to move through 63 rings, which required a change in their body focus. They then used questionnaires to explain their mental, physical, and emotional burdens. During the simulation, heart rate, muscle activity, and movement of the device were continuously recorded. Eight participants had to interrupt the experiment due to signs of nausea or discomfort that indicated mobility.
After evaluating the results of the remaining respondents, it can be stated that the participants considered the flights very comfortable, although they described them as physically demanding. Dorsal muscle chain (neck, shoulders, back) activated – basic strength training possible. For all other muscle groups studied, the average activity was below 30 percent, which only mobilizes the muscles. Heart rate remained within a low level of aerobic intensity (maximum 110 bpm). Icaros does not seem to offer cardiovascular benefits compared to conventional training. "Future whole-body concepts should focus on increasing dynamic muscle activation," concludes scientist Feodoroff. The most important finding from the Icaros trial, however, is that the new training system encourages stimulating physical activity. Everybody wants to fly. And this longing could be the vehicle people move. Feodoroff: "Motivating the public to exercise is probably one of the most important and difficult tasks in the health sector. Gamification of physical activity can not only contribute to physical activity motivation, but also promotes social contact and interaction."
Dr. Boris Feodoroff
Motion-based Institute for Exercise Therapy and Prevention and Rehabilitation
Tel .: +49 221 4982-4570
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