Effects of an immersive virtual reality exergame on university students’ anxiety, depression, and perceived stress: Pilot feasibility and usability study

Wenge Xu, Hai Ning Liang*, Nilufar Baghaei, Xiaoyue Ma, Kangyou Yu, Xuanru Meng, Shaoyue Wen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of students with depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. A solution that has been increasingly used for improving health and well-being is exergaming. The effects and acceptability of exergames have been studied widely but mostly with older adults. The feasibility and usability of exergames among university students, especially those of immersive virtual reality (iVR) exergames, remain unexplored. Objective: This study aimed to explore the feasibility of a 6-week iVR exergame–based intervention in reducing anxiety, depression, and perceived stress among university students and to examine the usability and acceptability of such games. Methods: A total of 31 university students were recruited to participate in a 6-week study in which they needed to play a boxing-style iVR exergame called FitXR (FitXR Limited) twice per week (30 minutes per session). Their anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II), and perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) levels were measured before and after intervention. Results: A total of 15 participants completed the 6-week study. Our results suggested that participants’ mean depression scores decreased significantly from 8.33 (SD 5.98) to 5.40 (SD 5.14) after the intervention (P=.01). In addition, most participants (14/15, 93%) believed that the iVR exergame has good usability. Furthermore, most participants (14/15, 93%) were satisfied with the iVR gameplay experience and would play the iVR exergame again in the future. Of the 15 participants, 11 (73%) would recommend the iVR exergame to their friends. Conclusions: The results gained from this study show that the iVR exergame has good usability, is highly acceptable, and has the potential to reduce depression levels among university students.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29330
JournalJMIR Serious Games
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Exergame
  • Immersive virtual reality
  • Stress
  • University students

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