Anyone who has been into gaming for a reasonable amount of time will know that there are some cliches about gamers. Unfair as these cliches might be, they do exist – and one of the main ones is the idea that if you enjoy gaming, you’re likely to be translucently pale and in bad shape. Yes, that’s easily disproved if you happen to know any more than two gamers, but it is something that sticks.
And although unfair, it does speak to something that is important to keep in mind. Like any activity, gaming can lead to certain health issues if you do it a lot – so it’s important to bear the following in mind if you’re serious about gaming.
An absorbing gaming session can go on for some time, and during that time you can be distracted from everything else around you. One thing you can’t afford to ignore is the need to keep your body’s hydration level topped up. Without sufficient water intake, you’ll be more prone to headaches, your focus will slip, and you’ll get tired much quicker.
Keep a bottle of water with you at all times while gaming, and take frequent sips when you’re not actively playing – at loading screens and between levels or missions, for example. Also look at supplementing electrolytes, as depletion of sodium, potassium and magnesium among others can bring additional problems.
Focus on your posture
When you’ve been playing for a considerable period of time, it’s not uncommon to begin slouching, which isn’t good for your back. And here’s the kicker – your body often won’t remind you that you’re sitting unhealthily until you try to stand up. Then, your back begins to protest, potentially even going into spasm.
It’s not a pleasant prospect, and when you can pick up cheaper gaming chairs for $100, it’s also not necessary. The right chair will allow you to maintain a healthy posture while playing, and some even come with side pockets to hold your water or a healthy snack or two.
Go for a walk at regular intervals
There are a lot of things that your body demands, which can become scarce when indulging in a long gaming session. These include fresh air, regular movement including stretching your legs, and the chance to look at something other than a screen. You could sit in your chair stretching out your legs, look out the window for a spell and open it to circulate the air.
Or you could take a 15-20 minute stroll to somewhere nearby (possibly to buy a bottle of water or some bananas), and tick at least three things off the to-do list in one fell swoop. If you have a pet, take them along with you; you’ll both appreciate it.
Don’t game before bedtime
Yes, we all have our schedules, and if you’re playing multiplayer there’s a good chance your schedule is what it is for a reason. But whatever that reason is, there is no good to come of playing any game just before you go to bed. It floods your vision with blue light, and is liable to release adrenaline and other sleep hormones.
The cumulative effect – or even either effect on their own – is enough to delay you falling asleep, ensure you don’t sleep as soundly when you do nod off, and keep you from powering down in the way you’re supposed to. Give it at least 90 minutes between turning off the console and going to bed – and allow yourself time for at least six hours of shuteye.
Walk away if you’re getting wound up
Excessive gaming can be bad for our mental health if we end up sleeping badly, let ourselves become cut off from the world beyond, and miss out on healthy eating as a result. But the game itself can become the problem if you’re just not having a good day. If you’re stuck on a level, losing multiple head-to-heads, or keep botching a mission at the same point, stepping away becomes essential.
If you’re setting too much store by completing a task that keeps frustrating you, it will begin to affect your mental state – and nothing is important enough to punish yourself over. Step away, come up for air, do something else. The game will still be there when you come back to it.
Gaming doesn’t need to be any less healthy than any other activity, if you know where your limits are and how to keep yourself well-nourished – and exercise enough at the right times. The positive benefit of this is that it will make you a better gamer than any amount of play will.
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.