So often, video games have been cited as a reason that people are antisocial, unhealthy, and sleep-deprived. It seems that gamers as a community are lazy for sitting around all day, overweight for snacking on fast food, and very separate from society by locking themselves away for days at a time. The stereotype of the gamer helps to perpetuate this image of unhealthy people sitting indefinitely in dark rooms, eating exclusively chips and drinking fizzy drinks.
While this is an extreme view of a huge diverse community of people, there may be truth to some of these assumptions. As a gamer, I find it hard to stop playing at times, and my usually good diet goes out the window. In the past I've stayed inside to play games instead of socializing with my friends. While these habits may be less extreme, from personal experience I believe they do exist to at least some degree. However, there are easy ways to stop this from happening to you or someone you know by setting guidelines on your gaming habit, as you would for anything else you do. This way you can ensure that you stay healthy and get the most out of your day, even if gaming is always a part of it.
How long is too long?
The biggest way to stay healthy while still getting a daily fix of games is to understand when you’ve been playing for too long. The internet is full of reports of people who were sent to the hospital for playing in excessive amounts, with clocked time exceeding 24 hours in most cases. Even if you’re not playing video games to this extreme, spending too long at your computer or on your console may negatively affect your body. It may also slow the functions of your brain; meaning the longer you game per day, the less effective you’ll be.
The time spent indulging in your favorite hobby is time not spent on other parts of your life, like exercising, preparing healthy food, and sleeping. Like any addiction to much of a good thing can be harmful, so it is important to have balance in order to stay healthy and live a life of quality.
Studies show that anywhere between 1 and 3 hours a day provides all the benefits of gaming (such as improved motor skills, memory, and many others) while keeping you from sitting for too long. Playing for too long can affect other parts of your body, like your heart, lungs, and even your brain. Additionally, three hours is a reasonable amount of time that can be incorporated into a daily routine without limiting other aspects of your life.
What food will most benefit your gaming?
Studies show that gamers will often eat more than they truly need while gaming, simply because they feel as if they are exerting energy through their character, despite not actually moving very much at all. This means that food is a very important factor of gaming.
The foods to avoid when preparing for your daily gaming session are those that affect alertness, focus, and the other skills you need for gaming. Dairy foods are very good at helping you sleep, but not very good for alertness when trying to defeat that boss that's been killing you for the past three days. Sugar has been linked to drops in focus, memory, and emotional balance, making it an incredibly unproductive food to eat while gaming, where you need all of these skills.
The same can be said for carbs suchas, bread. While most carbs will give you an energy boost for a while, simple carbs will soon make you crash like the aftermath of a sugar rush. All the quick thinking and perfect reflexes that you've been culminating will be useless until the crash is over. That means no sandwiches made with white bread or chips while playing.
On the other hand, there are many kinds of food shown to increase cognitive functions, keep the brain alert and keep your body healthy. Complex carbs like whole grains will keep you feeling full without the crash that simple carbs will give you. This limits compulsive snacking as well as helping steady mood dips that you may get from sugar withdrawal. Foods rich in vitamins are the way to go. Anything high in antioxidants is perfect for keeping you awake and alert. Foods like walnuts, blueberries, and dark chocolate are all easy to snack on, while also satisfying the body's craving for sweet deliciousness. Eggs are also a quick snack that will pick up your energy for your gaming session. Vitamin C found in fruits can improve your alertness just by being in the room, but make sure you don't skimp on drinking just to minimize bathroom breaks. Water does wonders for every part of your body, and you'll feel much better for drinking more in your day. Avoid sugary drinks, as tempting as they are, for the same reason you should avoid sugary food.
When you reduce unhealthy foods, and replace them with foods that are high in vitamins and anti-oxidants, you will not only improve your gaming ability, you will also keep your body healthy.
What are the best exercises for gamers?
The inactivity of sitting can really harm your body permanently, especially when it's a part of everyday life. When you sit for long periods of time, all your functions slow down. Blood pumps through your body slower, your digestion slows, and your muscles and bones cramp in uncomfortable and unhealthy ways to list only a few. Luckily, there are exercises you can do that can prevent or minimize these negative effects. These range from daily hour-long exercise sessions to small stretches you can do whenever you find yourself doing nothing for a moment.
The widest-spread issue that comes of sitting still for too long is back and neck problems. Sitting, especially slouching, cramps the muscles in your back and neck, which gradually weaken over time. As well as this, the spine is more likely to slip out of alignment when there are no strong muscles to hold it in place.
By doing daily stretches and exercises that target lower back and neck especially, though ideally the whole back should be targeted. If you already work out daily, incorporate exercises like rowing and pull-downs into your regime. When these muscles are strengthened, the spine will hold in place with far more ease, reducing neck and back pain.
As well as these muscle exercises, walking and running where possible will help muscles all over your body engage, keep your lungs breathing effectively, and keep blood pumping through your body effectively. Take as many opportunities as is possible to stroll to work, taking your dog for daily walks, and try to balance your gaming with times of activity.
Two other similar and common injuries in the gaming community are carpal tunnel and tendonitis. Carpal tunnel is the compression or damage of nerves in your wrist, while tendonitis affects the tendons of the wrist and forearm in this case, where it grows inflamed from overuse. Holding a mouse or controller for long periods of time and mashing buttons is a leading cause of these injuries.
These injuries can be avoided through stretches that can be done whenever you have free time, even when waiting for different stages of your game to load. The first and most simple one is to flex out your fingers, tightening your hands into fists and extending them out from each other as far as you can. You can also massage your fingers, wrists, and forearms when you feel an ache coming on. Do these as often as you can, especially when waiting in multiplayer lobbies before a big match.
As well as the items listed above, there are other small things that can be done to improve your health when gaming. Buying a good chair to help improve your posture can be a huge help when it comes to neck and back pain that never seem to go away. There's a great market for gaming chairs that are made to promote back health.
Taking 10-minute breaks every hour to walk around the house, maybe to do a quick bit of cleaning, will help stop gaming from becoming a guilty pleasure that wastes time. Sometimes it seems like an empty hole to cast money into, but by taking short "productivity breaks", you can feel less mentally stressed about relaxing.
Plan time in the afternoon to game and avoid late starts. While starting to play after dinner seems like a good idea, playing your favorite game makes time seem to go so much faster, and often you'll find that you're cutting into your sleep time, which will only make your days more stressful. If you avoid starting to game after 8:30 pm, you'll make sure that you leave yourself plenty of time for sleep, and you can sustain your hobby for much longer, as well as your day's tasks.
Healthy Habits Make Healthy People
Staying on top of your exercise, diet, and all other factors of life will make sure that it will be a sustainable hobby that you can continue for years to come, with little to no negative repercussions. While the image of gaming is often associated with unhealthy addictions that eat up your days, there's no reason that any gamers must abide by that ideal. The key to every activity is moderation, and when you find a balance that works for you, you'll find that you'll be healthier and happier because of it.