The gaming lifestyle awesome, and while having a multiplayer session with your friends every night may seem like innocent fun, our gaming habits can end up really hurting our bodies. I’m sure you’ve all heard about those people (there have been multiple reports of this in Korea) DYING after playing video games for DAYS. Now I don’t think we’re all that obsessed with our favorite pastime, but we really should consider our health while we’re playing. So here are some important tips every gamer should follow, whether you are casual or hardcore.
Lack of Sleep
Every dedicated gamer has a story about pulling an all-nighter. I’ve personally stayed up till 3 a.m. on school nights playing Black Ops with my boyfriend, and I know many people who have stayed up all night. I’m sure some of you have done this, be it because you were so into the game or were trying to break a world record. Whatever shape your story takes, the sleep deprivation probably meant you were tired the following day. However, all-night gaming marathons could have unexpected effects beyond feeling sleepy.
If you’re not worried about your health, at least let me appeal to your perfect gaming record: if you’re staying up late playing an online shooter like Call of Duty, at some point you’re going to notice a decline in your skill. I know when 2 a.m. starts to roll around, I’m reacting slower and slower to enemies…and caring less that I’m getting my ass whooped. Studies show we all need 7.5-8 hours of normal (aka in your bed, not passed out on the couch) sleep to stay healthy. Some people try to replace sleep with energy drinks and caffeine, but we all know those aren’t go for you - they can cause problems like irregular heartbeats and eventually you will crash, HARD.
The Bottom Line: Gaming All Night Is Fine Sometimes
Apart from the normal results of a night without sleeping (and the diminished functionality the day after), you shouldn’t worry about spending the occasional night with your favorite games. So, go ahead and stay up all night playing your favorite game! Just don’t do it every night, and be sure you catch up on the sleep you missed. Just try to stand every hour and stretch a bit, and keep yourself hydrated.
No matter what games you play or what platforms you play them on, you have probably suffered from the effects of eyestrain at one point or another. Can your favorite hobby be detrimental to your vision? Indeed it could.There’s pretty good evidence now that people who do a lot of near work (reading, video games) are more likely to develop myopia than people who do less. Myopia is the medial term for nearsightedness, where objects close to the viewer appear in focus and distant objects appear blurry. Near-work myopia is a temporary form of the condition caused by focusing on a nearby object for an extended period of time. However, some doctors believe near-work myopia can lead to permanent myopia. I’ve had instances of this - it scared me for a while because I didn’t want to ruin my eyes! Luckily it has gotten better, and I’m taking precautions to further prevent it from getting worse. Another ailment is keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as dry eye syndrome. As the layman’s name suggests, dry eye syndrome is a condition where your eyes don’t create enough tears, and it’s caused by a lack of blinking, as well as environmental conditions. Although dry eye syndrome can be serious, most cases are restricted to temporary discomfort as well.
What Can Gamers Do To Keep Their Eyes Healthy?
When it comes to eye health, the best thing a gamer can do is practice common sense. All of the issues discussed in this article can be alleviated by a few simple steps. Sit as far away from your display as you can, whether you’re viewing a stereo 3D or regular display. Take frequent breaks - and that doesn’t mean pausing your game to check Twitter on your phone. Walk away from your television/PC/handheld and give your eyes a chance to focus on something in the distance. If your eyes feel dry, don’t rub them (that only makes it worse) - instead blink more and use eye drops to keep them wet. Above all else, if you’re feeling any type of discomfort, it’s time to turn off the game. Get some air and sunlight in the meantime!
Between the joystick, keyboard and mouse, standard control pads, plastic guitars, motion controllers, and touch screens, the way we interact with video games has come a long way. Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives; we can easily spend hours each day typing, mouse clicking, and button mashing. Without proper precautionary measures, these slight, repetitive movements of the hands and wrists can lead to a number of injuries. What can start as a simple hand cramp can evolve into a long-term health problem if left untreated. My mom is always warning me of this, so check out these tips.
Carpel tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed at the wrist. The median nerve, which is one of the largest nerves to the hand, controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers as well as small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. When the connective tissue of the carpal tunnel surrounding the median nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, it compresses the median nerve, leading to numbness, pain, tingling, or weakness in the hand and wrist. If the discomfort you’re experiencing is in fact from carpal tunnel and is left untreated, the condition can lead to permanent hand numbness and even disability in the most serious cases.
To help avoid injury, Rempel recommends gaming in good posture and keeping your hands in a comfortable position, taking regular breaks (every 20 to 30 minutes is ideal), and most importantly, be mindful of aches, pains, and numbness in hands, arms, and shoulders. If symptoms occur during a gaming session, it’s probably best to just put the controller down. I tend to apply a little heat to my hands when they’re feeling sore, and I try to exercise my fingers to keep them strong with a Finger Grip, which you can see here.
A Healthy Diet
Gamers are as diverse as the world we live in, but there is one sure thing that we all face: we all need to eat. A stereotypical gamer’s diet might contain an overabundance of sugars, salts, and caffeine, but there are plenty of health risks with that kind of lifestyle. You may have snoozed through health class, but pay attention now if you want some quick tips on how to combat diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is ideal, and also having lots of relatively low fat foods. Whole grain foods are high in fiber, which help slow the absorption of sugars, and can reduce one’s risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Dried fruits make a healthy snack because they are high in energy, low in fat, and have a long shelf life. Other good snack options would be oatmeal, almonds, and yogurt. I personally love Welch’s Fruit Snacks - relatively healthy and won’t get my controller dirty like greasy chips would!
Did you know certain foods can benefit a gamer’s performance?
Some studies have also suggested that walnuts can help improve one’s motor skills, while vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and red cabbage have been shown to improve brain function, promote cardiac health, and protect against cancer. The healthy fats found in dairy, meats, and oils are also important for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is crucial for memory formation and general neural integrity. Exercise is also very important: it can improve cognitive and motor skills, so anyone who plays lots of games should workout every day or two.
Preventing Hearing Loss While Gaming
Gaming may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the main causes of hearing loss, but if you commonly use a DS or PSP or if you’re one of the millions of people using your mobile device for gaming on the go, chances are good that you’re frequently using headphones or earbuds while playing. If that’s the case, you could be putting yourself at risk. The first step to taking care of your ears is understanding how they work. Check out this video. So at what point does noise become a danger to your ears? Anything at or above 85 decibels for a prolonged period of time potentially could cause hearing loss. The risk goes up as the volume increases.
How do you prevent hearing loss?
One of the biggest challenges to safe headphones use is that there is no perfect, easy rule for determining if you’re at or above the 85 decibel limit. The solution: Only turn it up as loud as it needs to be for you to hear it. It may sound like common sense, but whether you’re listening to a song you really love or getting drawn into an immersive portable game, it’s easy to nudge the volume up a few more notches without even thinking about it. Avoiding this habit could save your ears in the long run, though. Limit it to no more than an hour, and then take a 15 or 20-minute break.
How you can figure out if you need to turn the volume down: If you’re listening to your headphones and someone has to shout at you at arm’s length for you to understand them, then you’re probably listening too loud. It always freaks me out when I can clearly hear what a person is listening to on their iPod - how they haven’t blasted their eardrums out, I’ll never know. A couple of more direct options exist for people who still aren’t sure. A few companies have started manufacturing volume-limiting headphones, such as the Ultimate Ears Loud Enough earbuds, though most of them are targeted toward children. If you’re using an iPhone, iPod Touch, or any other iOS device, you can easily set a volume limit using this handy guide
Thanks to Game Informer for their Health Week tips! If you guys have any tips of your own, please message me!