Published March 1, 2019 | Version Accepted pre-print
Journal article Open

Is Your Virtual Self as Sensational as Your Real?

  • 1. Department of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, Kent, UK
  • 2. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, Kent, UK
  • 3. Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus and RISE: Research Centre on Interactive Media, Smart Systems and Emerging Technologies, Nicosia, Cyprus


Objectives: Past research has shown that Virtual Reality (VR) is an effective method for reducing the perception of pain and effort associated with exercise. As pain and effort are subjective feelings, they are influenced by a variety of psychological factors, including one’s awareness of internal body sensations, known as Private Body Consciousness (PBC). The goal of the present study was to investigate whether the effectiveness of VR in reducing the feeling of exercise pain and effort is moderated by PBC.
Design and Methods: Eighty participants were recruited to this study and were randomly assigned to a VR or a non-VR control group. All participants were required to maintain a 20% 1RM isometric bicep curl, whilst reporting ratings of pain intensity and perception of effort. Participants in the VR group completed the isometric bicep curl task whilst wearing a VR device which simulated an exercising environment. Participants in the non-VR group completed a conventional isometric bicep curl exercise without VR. Participants’ heart rate was continuously monitored along with time to exhaustion. A questionnaire was used to assess PBC.
Results: Participants in the VR group reported significantly lower pain and effort and exhibited longer time to exhaustion compared to the non-VR group. Notably, PBC had no effect on these measures and did not interact with the VR manipulation.
Conclusions: Results verified that VR during exercise could reduce negative sensations associated with exercise regardless of the levels of PBC.


This work has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No 739578 and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Directorate General for European Programmes, Coordination and Development. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



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RISE – Research Center on Interactive Media, Smart System and Emerging Technologies 739578
European Commission


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