Previous research has described how virtual training produces acute neurological and cognitive benefits. Based on those results, a new study suggests that a similar virtual training session can also reduce psychosocial stress and anxiety.
Exercise is beneficial for our overall health. But for some people — such as neurological patients, people with cardiovascular disease, and hospitalized patients — exercise is not feasible, or even too dangerous. However, similar effects can be obtained when using Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR).
Although originally designed for entertainment, IVR has attracted interest from the academic community because of its usability for clinical purposes, as it allows users to experience the virtual world through a virtual environment. virtual body.
In previous research from researchers at Tohoku University’s Center for Intelligent Aging Research, they found that looking at a moving virtual body displayed in first-person perspective causes physiological changes. The heart rate increased/decreased consistent with the phantom movements, even though the young participants remained stationary. Thus, acute cognitive and neurological benefits occur, just as after actual physical activity.
In a follow-up study, similar benefits were found in healthy elderly people after 20-minute sessions of exercise twice a week for six weeks.
In the current study, researchers explored the impact on stress, adding another dimension to the beneficial effects of virtual training. Healthy young subjects, while sitting still, experience a virtual training session shown from a first-person perspective, creating the illusion of ownership over the movements.
The avatar ran at 6.4 km/h for 30 minutes. Before and after the virtual training, the researchers induced and assessed the psychosocial stress response by measuring salivary alpha-amylase – a key biomarker that indicates levels of neurological stress Endocrine. Similarly, they distributed a subjective anxiety questionnaire.
The results showed a reduced psychosocial stress response and lower anxiety levels after a virtual workout, comparable to what happens after a real workout.
Professor Dalila Burin, who developed the study, said: “Psychosocial stress represents the stresses frequently experienced in social situations such as social judgment, rejection and when performing Ours is evaluated.
“While moderate stress exposure can be beneficial, repeated and repeated exposure can be harmful to our health. This type of virtual training represents a new frontier, especially in countries like Japan, where the need for high performance and aging populations are persistent.”
These latest findings are published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Source: Tohoku University
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