Does exercise have an effect on gaming performance? In short, yes! Studies(1) have been made on the effect of exercise before a gaming session. The outcome has resulted in a boost in brain function. These functions range from reaction time to decision-making speed.
Now why is this relevant? It’s quite evident that large amount of screen time from gaming, leads to a result of inactivity. Physical inactivity has been linked to various health disadvantages, or can lead to a greater risk of developing health issues. Issues from Cardiometabolic diseases: heart disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia for example. Although, even outlining these disadvantages from lack of exercise, isn’t enough to get gamers out of their seat and start a journey of fitness. Take fast food, or smoking for example. The majority of us could label the ins-and-outs of why these habits are bad for us, yet still chose to do them. My point being, when a whole day of gaming results in less than 1,000 steps for a gamer, they know it’s bad for them, but still chose to live that lifestyle. I believe the turning point is outlining the benefits of exercise, specifically when it comes to gaming performance.
More and more gaming organisations are employing personal trainers to keep their players fit and healthy. Decreased chance of developing health issues, increased cognative function and a positive impact on game performance, are just some of the reasons for this rise in popularity.
Now I could create an enormous list for the positive benefits of leading a lifestyle that incorporates exercise with balanced nutrition. There are tons of articles out there which do far better job than I would explaining. So not only is the main focus to be about improved game performance, the benefits extend far more than that – but for the sake of this article, let’s delve deeper into game performance.
It’s no surprise that with the rise of the gaming industry, along with Esports, the competitive attitude of gaming has grown. With this industry growing, the popularity in watching gaming videos on YouTube, or streams on Twitch tv has become a part of many gamers lives. Not only can professional gamers earn a very healthy salary, it’s often appealing to the younger generation that they want that to be their future career. This urge to “be the best” may require hundreds, if not thousands of hours of training and experience. In the majority of popular games over the recent years, there has been a strong emphasis on a ranking system. These ranks determine skill and sometimes social status if ranked highly. The reason I mention this is very important. With the growing urge to get better at games – as it may result in financial or career success – this can lead to heavy periods of gaming sessions, where gaming for 10+ hours a day is considered normal. It’s my theory that with an ever growing competitive gaming industry, the outcome may be increased levels of inactivity amongst gamers.
So I’ve outlined the path gaming may go down in regards of gamers. Let’s outline exactly how exercise can have a positive impact on game performance:
- Improved cognitive function: Just in taking on a new short/long term goal in itself can have a positive effect on cognitive function. Researchers have long understood that exercise improves people’s cognitive performance, such as their attention, memory, as well as their brain structure. In many games it comes down to reaction time in the milliseconds, that can decide a win or a lose.
- Better sleep: The benefits of getting a good nights rest is vast. Lowering risk of health problems, reduced stress, improved mood and consistent energy levels are some. For many people, exercise can reduce sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep). This can be a huge benefit to gamers, staring at a screen for extensive periods of the day is linked to sleep disturbances. Blue light from digital devices supresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
- Reduced guilt: This may sound odd, but it’s something I’ve noticed in myself. Once reaching the end of a day, which has consisted of nothing other than sitting in front of a screen, gaming. An emotion of guilt used to often overcome me. “What did I achieve today?” “I could have done so much more.” “I feel so lazy.” Exercise during the day use to kick this feeling. Knowing you’ve achieved something productive which is beneficial – potentially working towards a long term fitness goal – makes the gaming session more pleasurable. After a great gym session, sitting down letting your muscles recover while playing your favourite game, is a great feeling – I tend to enjoy the game much more.
- Reduced stress: Gaming can be frustrating, along with other worries in life. Sometimes the gym is an opportunity to relieve some stress, take some anger out on those weights, or punch bag. Having a controlled outlet for frustration isn’t always necessary, although is sometimes needed. Exercising overall can lead to an increased state of relaxation once complete, leading to potentially stressful situations averted.
- Improved social life: Now this isn’t guaranteed, yet can’t be counted out. Of course if you’re performing home workouts, this maybe does not apply (unless you start chatting to likeminded fitness fanatics on social media). Gyms are often an intimidating place, especially for your stereotypical introvert-gamer, but conversations do sometimes happen out of no where. Who knows how large your social circle could get by just getting out the house more to the gym often.
There’s going to be points I missed, this list has some key positive impacts of fitness for gamers. I hope it’s opened up your eyes as to the huge impact a small amount of exercise can have.
Getting into fitness and correct nutrition can be daunting, there’s tons of information online, many of it incorrect! How to tell which is right, is sometimes a stressful rabbit hole to go down. To end this blog, I’d like to say look no further! Feel free to check out the SERVICES PAGE to see the range of services I offer at Glitch Coaching. If you’re ever getting into fitness, make sure you start off the right way. Forming bad habits is far too easy and can be detrimental to safety and reaching your goals. Nevertheless, happy gaming.