We know that increasing physical activity is good for us. It’s good for cardiovascular health, mental wellness and our bodies. There has been much ado lately about what is called “Virtual Challenges”, also know as “Virtual Fitness”. What is this, how does one go about it and is it for everyone, regardless of physical ability?
What is a Virtual Challenge?
A virtual challenge or virtual fitness is a way that you exercise, at your own pace, to a predetermined destination or goal. For example, a virtual challenge that is a “hike” would be of a determined length, such as 10 miles and you track your activity and when you achieve the goal.
Most challenges allow you to walk, run, bicycle, roll, swim, row or use any other method to exercise, to achieve your distance. Even if you are chair bound, you can row on a machine or roll in your wheelchair the determined distance and achieve your fitness goals. Most challenges also offer some kind of “medal” or certificate that prove you accomplished the goal!
Many challenges are also virtual in the sense that they are “located” in places around the world. For example, you can “walk a portion of the Great Wall of China”, or “hike through the Grand Canyon”. The applications (on the internet = your phone or computer), will show you geographical information, perhaps even street views based on “where” you are in the challenge. You’ll be able to see beautiful spots that you’ve never visited before.
What are the different types of Virtual Challenges?
Virtual challenges often fall into just two categories, short term and long term.
Short term challenges could be over a day or a week. They are quickly achievable and give a much needed sense of accomplishment in a short period of time.
Long term challenges might be done over a month or even a few months, all depending on the distance (and goal) you want to achieve. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, but it’s almost 500 miles long (and in Spain!). You may set this as a goal for three months, which broken down would be only 5 miles per day.
With a go-at-your-own-pace styling, both categories of challenges can be highly adapted to your lifestyle and fitness goals.
How could a Virtual Challenge change my life?
Your overall physical health could improve
Of course, increased exercise means better blood flow to extremities and organs and overall better physical health.
Your overall mental health could improve
Numerous studies show that physical exercise is directly linked to mental health and can help to decrease anxiety and depression.
Your sense of achievement and self esteem could improve
A better sense of achievement and accomplishment? Yes, please! A way to “travel” to a place you’ve always wanted to see, all while getting healthier? Yes, please. As per ThePositivityInstitute, “Research has consistently found that individuals who feel personally involved in the pursuit of goals indicate higher psychological well-being and display better health than do individuals who lack a sense of goal directedness in their lives (Brunstein, Schultheiss & Maier, 1999).”
But are they for seniors?
Any increase of appropriate physical exercise is for people of all ages and physical ability, including seniors and even children. Have a look at some reviews that outline tremendous benefits of participating in virtual challenges:
Conqueror Challenge review: “I was bemoaning how sedentary my life had become when I saw an ad for The Conqueror and discovered they had a virtual challenge for the St. Francis Way. As a pastor surviving the pandemic…my soul needed an uplift—so I decided to take the challenge and walk the pilgrimage in my own neighborhood. I looked forward to exploring the interactive map at the end of the day to see where I would be in Italy and that became my daily motivation to keep moving.
More walking meant I was drinking more water, and because I was feeling healthier, I was making healthier eating choices. I wound up losing 20 pounds, for the first time in several years my doctor congratulated me on getting my cholesterol, sugar, and blood pressure under control rather than giving me the warning lecture. I only intended to walk the one challenge, but found it so motivating that I have continued. I have now completed 5 challenges and am on my 6th. This app has become as important to my fitness journey as my gym membership and has really become my primary motivation.”
RaceAtYourPace review: “Race at your Pace has saved my life. Before I started I was over weight, high blood pressure, high liver function, got out of breath after 5 mins walking, pains in my ankles. Now I am up and do at least a 2.5 mile walk before work every day, usually at about 5.20am. I go for long walks at the weekend. I am now living my life not just existing. My first medal was for 25 miles and I only just did it.”
MyPacer review: “I loved this virtual challenge. I was injured by an accident in my knee, but I made an effort to recover and reach the goal. Also the medal looks like ancient Greek coins. Thank you very much “Pacer Adventure Challenge!”
Having gained popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic when travelling was limited, this new world of virtual challenges has opened up the globe to be seen and “travelled”. Finding the right challenge for you and your fitness goals, regardless of your ability is not only good for your health, but life-enriching.
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