Since its debut in a handful of select facilities, THE TRIP has been blowing minds and pushing people to up the intensity of their workouts – perhaps without them even noticing. Now, new research is set to demonstrate exactly how effective THE TRIP can be.

While many term it exertainment, such a label really doesn't do it justice. THE TRIP™ offers so much more than just an entertaining good time. Not only does this 40-minute immersive cycle class lead you through an array of new worlds, your legs are spinning, your heart pumps, sweat pours and calories evaporate. Put simply, it’s a damn good workout.

“It’s certainly no walk in the park,” says Les Mills Immersive Product Manager Chris Richardson. “It lies somewhere between Cardio Peak Training and High-Intensity Interval Training, making for a pretty intense challenge.”

“There’s no chance of clock watching,” says one rider “I can sustain efforts much longer when I’m chasing an avatar or following a visual cue. All of a sudden I’m pushing my body to maximum intensity, but barely noticing. And, I want to come back and do it again.”

Now, Dr Jinger Gottschall and the team at Penn State University are set to explore the science behind immersive cycling. They aim to show exactly how the introduction of an audio visual component that is synchronized with the structure and design of the workout can effect a cycling sweat session.

A purpose-built IMMERSIVE FITNESS studio has been constructed at FITOLOGY, the Penn State University fitness facility where exercise research takes place. The research team is set to recruit participants, collect baseline data and start the official intervention protocol in January. In fact, right now they are completing preliminary intensity testing.

Dr Gottschall explains that the study will focus on three variables; exercise intensity, perceived exertion, and adherence. The exercise intensity information will be based on time spent in varying heart rate zones (measured using Polar A360 heart rate monitors). The perceived exertion will be measured by qualitative survey data covering everything from class satisfaction to challenge and social connection. Adherence will be assessed by a period of observation where participants can freely choose whether they wish to continue with THE TRIP classes.

To provide comparative data across these variables the study has a crossover design. This means there will be two six-week exercise blocks, with a block of no exercise between. During the first block, one group of participants will complete the classic Les Mills RPM™ classes and one group will complete the new THE TRIP classes. During the second exercise block, the participants will take the opposite class.

“Based upon the past literature on interactive physical activity, we hypothesize that the immersive qualities of THE TRIP may show an increased exercise intensity without a parallel perception that expenditure is greater,” says Dr Gottschall.

That past literature includes an earlier study1 that compared the metabolic effects of interactive video game cycling and traditional indoor cycling. It concluded that, despite similar perceptions of exertion, interactive video cycling yielded a higher energy expenditure. Given that the immersive fitness qualities of THE TRIP go beyond simply “interactive video cycling” – there are wrap-around sound systems, screens and a live group exercise setting – it’s reasonable to suspect that the results could go up a notch too.

“This is an entirely new dimension of group fitness that we do not know enough about yet,” says Dr Gottschall. “For the first time we are exploring the adherence benefits of group exercise with the reduced perception of fatigue from the audio-visual experience – and I am really excited about the potential.”

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