Virtual physical exercise can reduce psychosocial stress and
Previous research involving healthy participants has reported that seeing a moving virtual body from the first person perspective induces the illusion of ownership and agency over that virtual body. When a person is sitting and the virtual body runs, it is possible to measure physiological, behavioral and cognitive reactions that are comparable to those that occur during actual movement. Capitalizing on this evidence, we hypothesized that virtual training could also induce neuroendocrine effects that prompt a decreased psychosocial stress response, as occurs after physical training. While sitting, 26 healthy young adults watched a virtual avatar running for 30 min from the first person perspective (experimental group), while another 26 participants watched the virtual body from the third person perspective (control group). We found a decreased salivary alpha-amylase concentration (a biomarker for the stress response) after the virtual training among the experimental group only, as well as a decreased subjective feeling of state anxiety (but no difference in heart rate). We argue that the virtual illusion of a moving body from the first person perspective can initiate a cascade of events, from the perception of the visual illusion to physiological activation that triggers other biological effects, such as the neuroendocrine stress response.