Virtual Reality “exergames”: A promising countermeasure to improve motivation and restorative effects during long duration spaceflight missions

Nathan Keller, Richard S. Whittle, Neil McHenry, Adam Johnston, Colton Duncan, Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Gabriel G.De La Torre, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Gregory Chamitoff, Ana Diaz-Artiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Long duration spaceflight missions will require novel exercise systems to protect astronaut crew from the detrimental effects of microgravity exposure. The SPRINT protocol is a novel and promising exercise prescription that combines aerobic and resistive training using a flywheel device, and it was successfully employed in a 70-day bed-rest study as well as onboard the International Space Station. Our team created a VR simulation to further augment the SPRINT protocol when using a flywheel ergometer training device (the Multi-Mode Exercise Device or M-MED). The simulation aspired to maximal realism in a virtual river setting while providing real-time biometric feedback on heart rate performance to subjects. In this pilot study, five healthy, male, physically-active subjects aged 35 ± 9.0 years old underwent 2 weeks of SPRINT protocol, either with or without the VR simulation. After a 1-month washout period, subjects returned for a subsequent 2 weeks in the opposite VR condition. We measured physiological and cognitive variables of stress, performance, and well-being. While physiological effects did not suggest much difference with the VR condition over 2 weeks, metrics of motivation, affect, and mood restoration showed detectable differences, or trended toward more positive outcomes than exercise without VR. These results provide evidence that a well-designed VR “exergaming” simulation with biometric feedback could be a beneficial addition to exercise prescriptions, especially if users are exposed to isolation and confinement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number932425
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Oct 11 2022


  • HIIT (high intensity interval training)
  • aerobic exercise
  • biometric
  • exergaming
  • resistance exercise
  • sprint protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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