Exercising with virtual reality improves mood, working memory function: Study

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Researchers have found that VR (virtual reality) exercise sessions can significantly improve mood and performance at working memory tasks more than exercise or rest alone.

The findings, published in the ‘bioRxiv preprint server’ showed that a 10-minute VR exercise session improved mood (arousal and vitality level) and working memory task performance (3-back task) more effectively than exercise or rest alone.

The study, involving 23 healthy university students, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how VR exercise affects working memory, a key executive function, and its underlying neural mechanisms. 

Before beginning the main experimental conditions, participants completed a graded exercise test to determine peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) and practised the N-back task. Three experimental conditions were used: exercise without head-mounted display (HMD), exercise with HMD (VR), and rest without HMD.

All individuals completed all conditions on separate days, and the order was counterbalanced.

The researchers discovered that all individuals were able to complete the activities without experiencing any adverse effects.

Physiological factors such as heart rate (HR) and RPE exhibited substantial relationships across conditions and sessions. HR and RPE were considerably higher in the exercise (EX) and VR conditions compared to the rest (RS) conditions. Psychological mood states such as vitality and arousal were considerably higher in the VR condition than in the RS and EX conditions.  

Working memory performance, as measured by the N-Back task, revealed reduced reaction times following exercise, particularly in VR. Brain activity evaluated using fMRI demonstrated activation in numerous regions throughout the 3-back task, with overlaps between the EX and VR conditions, according to the study.

The study findings revealed that VR exercise improved vitality, strengthened working memory, and elevated mood compared to rest and traditional exercise.

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