Acute effects of immersive virtual reality exercise on young adults’ situational motivation

Wenxi Liu, Nan Zeng, Zachary C Pope, Daniel J McDonough, Zan Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The development of innovative technology, such as virtual reality (VR), has provided opportunities for promoting physical activity (PA) in a fun and engaging manner. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in young adults’ situational motivation (SM) among immersive VR, non-immersive VR, and traditional stationary cycling sessions. In all, 49 healthy college students (35 females; Mage = 23.6 years, SD = 3.4; M%BF = 24.0%, SD = 7.5) completed three separate 20 min cycling sessions: (1) immersive VR cycling; (2) non-immersive VR cycling; and (3) traditional cycling. Participants’ SM was assessed via the situational motivation scale, which included four subconstructs: intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation, and amotivation. Repeated measures ANOVAs indicated significant differences for situational motivation between cycling sessions (F (2, 96) = 4.74–53.04, p < 0.01, ηp 2 = 0.090–0.525). Specifically, participants elicited the highest level of intrinsic motivation in immersive VR cycling compared to the other two sessions. Moreover, participants in both immersive VR and traditional cycling showed greater identified regulation than the non-immersive VR session. Furthermore, participants showed greater external regulation compared to the immersive VR session. In addition, greater amotivation was observed in non-immersive VR compared to the immersive VR session. Findings suggested that immersive VR exercise has the potential to be an attractive exercise alternative, possibly promoting greater PA participation and adherence among young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1947
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • College students
  • Motivation
  • Physical activity
  • Virtual reality


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