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Gaming can, it appears, be part of a healthy lifestyle. Gone are the days when to say ‘gamer’ was to conjure up an image of a slobbish, sallow-skinned, spotty teenager, and, as awareness grows, games may replace the gym as the go-to activity for those wishing to improve their health and vitality. So, exactly how it is that gaming can be healthy?
First of all, gaming can have profound cognitive benefits. Men’s Health (bet you would never have imagined that this magazine would feature articles about gaming) cites some of these. For example, gaming can improve the performance of your brain in three areas – the parietal lobe, the frontal lobe and the anterior cingulate – and thus improve your attention and ability to multitask. Likewise, variety is the spice of life: you should have a varied gaming diet, as different types of games have different benefits.
Platform games, for example, seem to improve your memory, whilst puzzle games like Tetris can improve your attention. There are also a host of other cognitive benefits. For example, Psychology Today cites an article in the American Journal of Play entitled ‘Play that can do serious good’, which states how many of the cognitive processes that are required by particularly action games (memory skills, attention, holding multiple things in your working memory at once, and problem-solving) are fundamental to intelligence, and so gaming may be able to hone your intelligence.
Gaming can also have a number of other health benefits. For example, they have been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. A study in the Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine cited in The Week suggested that type A personalities (those who are more aggressive and competitive) can gain a sense of catharsis from playing video games, and they can create a sense of relaxation and mindfulness. Furthermore, gaming has been shown in other studies to be able to improve the mood and subjective sense of wellbeing in the elderly who are in residential care and can help to facilitate social connections.
Gaming also has many applications in treatment, many of which could prove to shift ways of thinking in healthcare. For example, NBC cites a virtual reality platform called SnowWorld, that has been used in pain treatment and management. A small study was conducted, which used wounded soldiers as participants. The results? They found that SnowWorld was actually more effective than Morphine! Even pioneers in the field were surprised, but this study just goes to show that video games can have a number of benefits and applications in healthcare.
It also seems that gaming can also give you a physical workout. Gaming in the last few decades has become more sophisticated, culminating in games in which your body can be the controller, which involve movement and can be an antidote to some games that perhaps promoted a sedentary lifestyle. Now, when playing tennis game, you can actually swing the tennis racket, and when bowling, you can throw the ball towards the screen (straight into the gutter, in my case).
This form of gaming is called exergaming, and it has the potential to replace going to the gym as the main form of exercise for the fitness conscious within the next couple of decades. The National Institute of Health said that exergaming is a very exciting new way to potentially increase physical activity and that it can play a role in tackling the problem of obesity in society.
So, as we have seen, gaming has a variety of potential health benefits. It is a cliché, but those cited above really are the tip of the iceberg, and there are a huge amount of other benefits, whether these are cognitive, health-related, medical or to do with fitness.
To find out more about the benefits of gaming, see the infographic below from our partners at Computer Planet.
Eichenbaum, Adam et al. “Video Games. Play That Can Do Serious Good.” Journal of Play. Journal of Play. Fall. 2013. Web. 14 Jun 2018.
Frank, Megan, and Carter, Neal. ‘Groundbreaking experiment in virtual reality uses video game to treat pain’. Rock Center with Brian Williams. NBC, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Jun. 2018
Gallagher, Danny. “7 Health Benefits of Playing Video Games”. The Week. Dennis Publishing, 10 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Jun. 2018
Men’s Health. ‘5 Surprising Health Benefits of Gaming’. Men’s Health. Hearst, 26 Oct 2017. Web. 14 Jun 2018.
Sween, Jennifer et al. The Role of Exergaming in Improving Physical Activity: A Review. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health. The National Institute of Health. Web. May 2014. Web . 14 Jun 2018.