Effect of Immersive Virtual Reality Exergaming on University Students’ Anxiety, Depression, and Perceived Stress: A Pilot Study

Background: In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of students suffering from depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. A solution that has been increasingly used for improving health and wellbeing is exergaming. The effect and acceptability of exergames have been studied widely but mostly with older adults. Their feasibility and usability by university students, especially for immersive virtual reality (iVR) exergames, remain unexplored.



Objective: This study aims to explore the feasibility of a six-week iVR exergame-based intervention in reducing anxiety, depression, and perceived stress for university students and examine the usability and acceptability of such games.



Methods: A total of 31 university students were recruited to participate in a 6-week study, where they needed to play a boxing-style iVR exergame called FitXR twice a week, 30 minutes per session. Their anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II), and perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) were measured before and after intervention.



Results: Fifteen participants completed the 6-week study. Our results suggested that participants’ depression scores were reduced significantly from 8.33 (SD=5.98) to 5.40 (SD=5.14) after the intervention (P=.012). In addition, most participants (93.3%) believed the iVR exergame has good usability. Furthermore, most participants (93.3%) were satisfied with the iVR gameplay experience and would play the iVR exergame again in the future. Eleven participants (73.3%) would recommend the iVR exergame to their friends.



Conclusions: Results gained from the study show that the iVR exergame has good usability, is highly acceptable, and has the potential to reduce depression among university students.



(Paper offer publication in JMIR Serious Games)