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Health Hacks for Gamers

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— February 15, 2018

Health Hacks for Gamers

  • DON'T LET YOUR BODY GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR PLANS FOR GAME-WORLD DOMINATION.
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Looking to win the West in

Red Dead Redemption 2, refight World War II in Call of Duty or explore Hyrule in the latest Legend of Zelda? Go for it—but remember that spending too many hours straight with a console in your hand can take its toll.

Research does show that gaming can improve memory, attention, and vision, as well as help to overcome dyslexia, ease pain and reduce stress. However, excessive game time can lead to repetitive strain injuries and other health problems. “Sitting for hours on end without a break links to dehydration, inflammation and increased spinal breakdown due to the hunched posture while sitting,” says Wayne Caparas, fitness pioneer and author of BioLogic Revelation (Westbow).

Here are some of the best ways to stay healthy while gaming.

Stand Tall

Sitting for 12 or more hours a day—particularly for stretches of at least 60 to 90 consecutive minutes—increases your risk of a shortened lifespan, according to an Annals of Internal Medicine study. When combined with poor posture, staying planted in a chair too long “especially affects the neck, and internal rotation of the shoulders with a rounded back causes problems for gamers,” says Irv Rubenstein, PhD, exercise physiologist and founder of S.T.E.P.S., an exercise fitness facility in Nashville.

Gamer’s hack: Play games that make you move more. “Physically active games such as Wii help minimize the negative effects of sitting and of poor posture and can actually help you get in a workout at the same time,” says Rubenstein. Or simply play while moving about, Caparas suggests; that adds another degree of difficulty, burns more calories and requires you to use your entire body. “Gamers find the emerging sport of Disc Golf (aka Frisbee golf) to be especially engaging, as it is the closest thing to a video game alternative due to its competitive nature and technical aspects,” Caparas adds.

Drink Up

Stories abound of people collapsing at their consoles due to exhaustion and dehydration after hours of gaming. Even mild dehydration can play havoc with cardiovascular health, according to one study; researchers believe mild dehydration affects blood-vessel function nearly as much as smoking a cigarette.

Gamer’s hack: “Gamers need to strategically plan to drink at least four ounces of water per hour while sitting,” says Caparas. “Some rig their hats with water tubes that facilitate drinking while playing, but it’s far easier to establish regular rehydration breaks every 30 minutes.” (That also gets you out of your chair.) Unsweetened green tea is another good hydration option. Stretch It Out Muscles tend to tighten up when sitting for long periods. “Simple stretches can be easily done and even performed while playing the games,” says Rubenstein. These include:

Shoulder stretch: Bring your left arm across your body and hold it straight. With your right hand, grasp your left elbow and pull it across your body towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your left shoulder; hold 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the opposite arm. Doorway chest stretch: Stand inside a door frame in a staggered stance and bring both arms up, bending at the elbows, hands up, in a goal-post position, elbows on either side of the door frame; step through the door until you feel a stretch across the chest; hold 20 to 30 seconds. Forearm stretch: Extend your right arm straight in front of you and bring it parallel to the floor with your palm facing up towards the ceiling. Take your left hand and grab the fingers of your right hand and gently pull them back towards your elbow. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch arms.

Take a HIIT

“Intervals or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) make the most of your time,” says Rubenstein. “These short, 15- to 20-minute workouts may suit a gamer’s lifestyle better and allow them to have their play time.”

Gamer’s hack: Incorporate HIIT into your schedule two to three times a week. These include alternating short bouts of all-out effort with short increments of reduced level effort, such as sprints alternating with jogs.

Consider Ergonomics

The position of your spine can make the difference between back pain or comfort. Believe it or not, Caparas says that sitting without back support actually helps you better maintain the proper curve in your spine. Gamer’s hack: Backless ergonomic chairs and exercise balls are available

Suffer from game-induced motion sickness? Wear those little acupressure bands people use when traveling. You can also try sipping some ginger tea or sucking on pieces of the dried or fresh root (if you don’t mind the kick).

to help curb spinal breakdown caused by prolonged sitting, Caparas notes. If using a fitness ball as a chair, be sure to alternate 20 minutes on and off with a traditional chair to avoid fatigue. Anti-glare screens can help make things easy on your eyes while squeezing foam or rubber balls can give your fingers and wrists a workout.

Practice Good Posture

Sitting hunched over a keyboard wreaks havoc with your posture, which can lead to other issues such as neck and shoulder pain, including rotator cuff problems. And those problems can start early; Rubenstein notes that some people start to feel the effects of poor posture by the time they hit their 30s. “Some core, especially low back, exercises that include some shoulder exercises or bridges, with feet on floor and progressing to feet on ball, could help,” he says. Gamer’s hack: Try the Bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, arms down to your sides. Slowly lift your hips off the ground until your shoulders, hips, and knees form a straight line. Hold for a second and slowly return back to starting position but without relaxing at the bottom before doing a total of 12 to 15 reps.

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