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October 16, 2021

How To Best Track Active Calories in VR

My first time playing VR, I was having a blast and sweating like a pig (see my favorite VR games for working out). I was hooked. I can’t think of a more fun way to burn serious calories for hours on end (particularly during the pandemic).

However, I wasn’t sure how to track my active calories while playing VR, and the Oculus Move app wasn’t getting it done for me. So I created this blog post to help people new to VR figure it out.

Heart Rate Monitors Are Your Best Bet

A heart rate monitor paired with an app that factors in your age, weight, gender, and activity will give you the best results (of commercially available options). If you already have something like an Apple Watch, I’d continue to use that for measuring your VR activity.

What Fitness Apps To Use on the Apple Watch

I want to highlight an iPhone/Android app called VR Health Exercise Tracker. It’s from a company that attempts to factor in the game you’re playing into calories burned calculations. As of 2021, it’s the gold standard for trying to estimate the number of calories you’re burning in VR.

That said, I found that regular fitness tracker apps tend to give similar results. Because of this, I ultimately circled back to my favorite Apple Watch fitness apps rather than using one exclusively for VR calorie tracking.

What Activity Should You Choose for VR in Fitness Apps?

You’re primarily stationary when playing VR, so you want to avoid choosing an activity like an outdoor walk or run. And while some VR games can get intense, I’d avoid intense exercise options like HIIT.

I find that your options like Cooldown, Indoor Walk, Dance, and Yoga are probably the closest approximations to your activity level in VR. I’d choose one of those.

Avoid The Oculus Move App

I found the Oculus Move app to be particularly egregious when estimating calories. I’d be sweating like a pig for hours, and the app would estimate that I only burned 200 calories. Which is dramatically lower than what the gold standard VR Health Exercise Tracker app was estimating.

I think the Oculus Move app is a cool app in that you can track how long you played various games. That said, I don’t think it’s a great app for calorie tracking (this could change in future updates).

Can You Lose Weight By Playing VR?

Yes, you absolutely can (with the usual caveat that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet).

I’ve burned a ton of calories mindlessly playing VR. When I’m playing a game like Echo VR or Gorn, I’ll be sweating like a pig and breathing heavily in well less than an hour. And it doesn’t feel like I’m working out, it feels like I’m playing a really fun video game.

To me, VR and the Oculus Quest 2 is the single best piece of at-home exercise equipment in existence right now (the second being a set of resistance bands). So if you’re looking to increase your activity level while having a blast during the pandemic, then look no further.

I personally lost nearly 10 lbs my first month of playing VR video games!

Shaun Poore worked as a professional software developer for 15 years before transitioning into content creation and digital product businesses. Shaun's currently focused on providing as many people as possible with actionable advice and tools they can use to succeed online, without the fluff or BS that too often plagues this industry.