Video Games

There’s No Real Life Health Packs: Staying Healthy While Gaming

Gaming is one of the ultimate hobbies. It can be fun, relaxing, stressful, emotional, competitive, frightening, empowering, and more. You can play by yourself, with friends, or complete strangers. There are even mental health benefits from playing games, like faster reflexes and quicker decision making abilities.

Yet, video gaming can take a toll on your health. Sitting in a chair for hours on end with minimal movement is not the best thing for your body. Doing it multiple times a week is even worse. Accompany that with all of the gamer stereotypes, such as consuming massive amounts of soda, energy drinks, and junk food, and you’ve got a recipe for body disaster.

Instead of just letting your body fall apart while you save the galaxy, here are some ways to keep your body healthy without cutting into your gaming time. That way, you can keep saving the princess, even in your old age.

Staying Active Between Matches

Sitting is not healthy. Some are even claiming that “sitting is the new smoking” because of the negative effects it can have on your body. Yet, tons of people spend most of their day sitting down. They sit while driving to work, sit in front of a computer while at work, drive home sitting home, and then proceed to sit down to watch TV and play games.

The more activity you can get throughout the day, the better you health will be. Even exercising for a minute or two every hour can be helpful. In the down moments while gaming, make a plan to get some quick exercise in. Get your heart rate up, lift some weights, do something to get active.

For example, maybe you are playing “PUBG” or “Fortnite” with a group of friends and you’ve been killed early on. Instead of just sitting in your chair waiting for the round to end, do some jumping jacks. Waiting to respawn in the latest multiplayer shooter? Do a squat or two during the five seconds till you are back in the action.

There are tons of exercise programs gamers have made for a variety of games. A personal favorite is the “Dark Souls” Fitness challenge, where every time you die, you do 10 pushups. Similar programs can be applied for other games too though. Playing a game with extraordinarily long load times? Do a quick workout. Playing a game like “Metal Gear Solid V” with 10 minute long cutscenes? Workout while watching it.  

Take Care of Your Eyes

The two important tools of the gamer are their hands and eyes. It’s incredibly important to take care of both. Staring at a screen for long periods of time can be very harmful on your eyes. It’s because your eyes are constantly focusing and refocusing over and over, which strains the muscles in your eyes. With images constantly changing in games, your eyes work overtime just to keep up, especially in fast paced games.

The best solution is to take a break from screens regularly. Take the same advice given to workers who sit in front of a computer all day. Adapt your visual settings so you can see everything on the screen clearly, especially with dark atmosphere games. Don’t get too close to your TV or computer screen. Take breaks from looking at the screen, both for a few seconds every 20 minutes, and for 5 minutes every hour.

If you feel like your eyes are drying out or hurting, don’t push through it to keep playing. That’s your body pleading with you to take a break, so listen to it. Turn off the screen and do something else.

If you play a ton of games, you might want to invest in some tinted computer glasses, like those made by Gunnar. They can help reduce the strain on your eyes, helping protect your eyes from damage.

Protect Your Hands From Harm

The gamers’ other major tool, their hand, goes through even more wear and tear while playing. Carpal tunnel, strained muscles, blisters, and numbness are all ways you can hurt your hands by playing too much.

To start, stretch your hands before playing. It sounds strange, but playing fast paced, reflex driven games puts your hands through a workout. Take a few minutes before jumping in to stretch your hands and wrists. Then, every hour or so, take a quick break and stretch again, keeping yourself loose.

Another potential solution is to get ergonomic controls to help out. There are mice, keyboards and controllers available that are all designed to lessen tension and strain on your hands.

Finally, if you do notice that your wrist, hand, or fingers start to ache or hurt, stop immediately. That’s your body informing you that it’s hurt and you need to stop. Switch to a different control method, or take a long break to give your hands a break. If you come back later and your hands still hurt, consult a doctor and don’t play for awhile.

Getting Enough Sleep

There are just not enough hours in the day to achieve all of the gaming you want to do, so often the first thing sacrificed is sleep. Who among us hasn’t stayed up till 3AM trying to beat that final boss or saying “just one more match.”

Consistently skipping out on sleep can have serious health effects. You are more likely to get into car crashes, suffer from depression, gain weight, and impair your judgement. You are also more at risk for heart disease and strokes.

There is no real trick to get sleep while playing games. You just need to make the decision to go to bed and get enough sleep. It’s recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, so if you have to get up at 7AM, try getting to bed at 10PM the night before.

If you struggle with this, take steps to ensure you go to bed on time. Many consoles and TVs have an ability to set a limit or alarm and turn off automatically when it’s time. Other solutions can include asking a friend, roommate, or family member to encourage you to head to bead, or setting a reminder on your phone. It will take some will power, but just remember that the game will still be there tomorrow.

Stay Healthy, Level Up

You know how in games, you’ll save healing items till you really need them, hoarding them till you have 30 more than you’ll ever need? Don’t do that with your real life. Procrastinating your health is a very dangerous thing to do, so start taking steps now. There is no health pack to get you to full health in the real world. Try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and take care of your body now.

The Author

Ben Allen

Ben Allen

Champion of Hyrule, defender of space, bane of demons, savior of light, and occasional pizza eater.

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