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Have you heard about the new trend in VR Workouts? I certainly have. And as a person with kidney disease who had a transplant a few years ago, I have been on the lookout for different ways to keep myself healthy and happy. I tried Yoga, Running, Soccer, in-house Youtube Workouts and nothing ever seemed to stick. That was until my therapist pointed out that I was doing a workout to make my doctors feel better and not to make myself feel better. That little clarification helped me realize that if I was going to get a good workout in, it would need to be something I enjoyed and wanted to do! So as someone who has spent years looking into transplant workouts, this article is all about how I have used VR to get in my 30 minutes of rigorous transplant workout in without hurting myself in the process.
Hi… Yeah, actually that title is about me. I’m a transplant patient. It’s been about 5 years since I got my kidney transplant. And this is how VR is Slowly helping me rediscover my passion for dance. This article reflects the attitudes of one person and is not a reflection of all health opinions or facts relating to chronic kidney disease. Anyone seeking medical advice should consult a medical professional.
About Transplant and Why VR is Helpful for Working Out
In many ways, kidney disease is a hidden disease. It’s not immediately noticeable if you have kidney disease since it mostly affects your energy levels and your mental focus. Without going too deep into the details, this is something I have actually dealt with my entire life.
Most people get or develop chronic kidney disease as a result of something happening to them, not something they have had their entire life. So if you have recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and are looking for details on how to stay healthy, you may find some of the things I have learned over decades of living with kidney disease to help you out.
How Transplants Change Your Life
A transplant is a huge quality and shift in the way you live your life. If you are lucky enough to receive a transplant, you will probably be looking for ways to help keep your new transplanted organ healthy. But there are a few things you may need to be aware of…
- Once you have a transplant, life will never be the same.
This is true in both amazing and great ways, and in ways, you may not have considered before. For the vast majority of people who are lucky enough to get a transplant, you can experience better moods, higher energy levels, and a better overall quality of life.
But to help keep your transplant, you will need to take immunocompromising medication.
Why do Transplant Recipients need to take Immunosuppressants?
Without getting too deep into the science, immunosuppressants help you keep your new transplanted organ. In the most basic understanding of organ transplant, your body is trained over years of experience to find and eliminate anything foreign like a cold. Your body is so good at this that by the time you receive an organ transplant, your body knows its not supposed to be there.
Despite how helpful transplants are for people, your body has learned it needs to fight your transplanted organ so immunosuppressant medication is designed to slow down your body’s fight or flight response so your organ transplant can do what it is designed to do.
How Immunosuppressant medication affects your Stamina
Very soon after your recovery time from a transplant, you may realize you are a bit slower or exhaust a bit faster than you did beforehand. This is a common symptom of a transplanted organ since your body is now trying to slowly fight off this new organ.
But that doesn’t mean you cannot get better! After a few years of struggling to realize my limitations after transplant, I found a solution to improving my stamina using VR.
Why VR is Helpful for Transplant Workouts
So here I am, 5 years after my initial transplant, and after my last doctors appointment, I was told I have actually seen my kidney disease improve so much that I am considered as healthy as those with limited or stage 1 kidney disease! Does that mean that my kidney disease is Cured? Absolutely not. I will have this for the rest of my life but its crazy how helpful VR has been at improving my quality of life!
Why video games are so important to people with limited abilities?
Maybe it’s because I haven’t always fit in well with my peers, but I always felt like I was a half step behind playing catch-up. Video games felt like a more level playing field. Everyone spawned in the same location with the same health and by sheer merit of your talent and grit, you could actually win.
This was in complete contrast to the way my physical experience was of the real world… Where physical advantages seemingly kept others ahead and always felt like a built-in limitation. But I’m a virtual world, I could appear at least to be the same as other people and in some regards, I could out preform others.
As amazing as video games are for helping you feel like you are on the same playing field, they are also limited. Like many people, I discovered a toxic relationship I had with video games. I would use the virtual world as a replacement. During the lockdown, I found myself reevaluating that relationship. I would wake up, walk to my computer and work at a job I had no passion for, feeling broken in spirit for 6 to 8 hours a day then I would hop into a game server for 3 to 4 hours while ordering door dash or GrubHub every day.
I eventually realized how my relationship to a video game server while being the only thing I felt like I was living for, was also the thing that was slowly killing me. So I started going to in-person therapy (don’t go to online therapy if you have the option) and started talking about all my mental health issues. Over time, my time spent in the server diminished and my time in person with people I loved grew.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t love video games still…
Why VR is a Great Transplant Workout
As I write this blog, I just finished playing martin Garrix’s “Animals” in BeatSaber. I missed 8 notes in total and passed them on expert. Not to brag (a little bit of a brag) but buying a VR machine was one of the best things I could do for my health.
See, as a kidney transplant recipient, you take immunosuppression medication. That medication while keeping you organ safe from your immune system, comes with some compromises.
First, is you are a bigger risk for skin cancer. And as someone who lives in the desert, I can’t spend very much time outside without being in some degree of risk of skin cancer. Second is your recovery times are significantly higher. I didn’t realize how much this would affect day-to-day life but I had a big realization about the human body.
Your body is always fighting a bug, breaking down toxins, or recovering from a workout. For someone with a transplant, you do this same thing but every hit seems to hit you slightly harder than it hits others.
That was really hard for me to accept in the first couple of years after the transplant. I would still try and run, do heavy workouts, and eat animal protein 24/7… But my body just couldn’t do it to the same degree it could before the transplant without a much higher recovery time. I even pushed myself to sickness a couple of times due to just blatantly ignoring the physical realities of my body.
VR Enables Better Workouts for Transplant Patients
In 2023, its not even remotely controversial that getting in consistent movement is good for your brain health, your physical health, and your emotional well-being. But if you have a transplanted organ, it can be hard to find an appropriate way to get a workout in that doesn’t completely deplete your energy for days or even weeks.
Transplant patients can sometimes have difficulty finding an appropriate way to work out. Workouts tend to activate parts of your immune system which can cause faster levels of exhaustion in transplant recipients. This is something I became all to familiar with. I spent a significant portion of my time after my transplant, finding and testing out unique combinations of what I eventually called a “Transplant Workout”.
What’s a Transplant Workout?
A transplant workout needs to be accommodating to those who have had a transplant of an organ. Depending on the organ, that might mean different things. Doctors will recommend a good transplant workout of walking for 20 to 30 minutes a day, but if the weather is harsh outside, it can be hard for us to want to do a transplant workout every day.
Especially as someone who lives in one of those bitter cold environments, walking outside everyday is not particularly feasible. So I tried things I can reliably do inside like lifting weights, practicing Yoga (I still do this occasionally), and joining a gym.
But then for my 2022 birthday, I decided to buy a VR headset. It seemed like an interesting purchase forever. I could merge my passions for music, dance, and video games into something I enjoyed enough for a workout. Now I know VR is not quite the most intense workout on the planet, but it can sure get your heart going. And that’s what I need right now.
According to my smartwatch, I get about 20 to 45 minutes of a high-intensity cardio workout per session. And for me, that’s a huge improvement over the 0 hours and depressive mental state I was in during 2020.
Why Do VR Workouts Feel Better than Other Workouts for Transplant Patients?
Because VR feels like a game, my mind and body are less likely to focus on the exhaustion of the process, instead, you focus on the game itself! Many people have transitioned to doing VR workouts from home instead of going to a gym because it’s more fun! Plus you don’t have to go anywhere, can work out at any time, and since you are playing a game, it doesn’t really feel like a workout!
This has been our experience using VR for workouts and its been a game changer for our physical and mental well-being. If you are considering VR for working out, consider using our affiliate link for a discount on the Oculus Quest 2 – our favorite VR headset for most people at a low cost of $399.
If you reached the end of this article, I sincerely thank you for reading my story. I’m still learning and growing with my medical condition and want to continue to document my experiences. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you want to see more content like this.
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