Gaming Binges are INEVITABLE
For us gamers, it is hard not to appreciate explore the world of a new single-player campaign game like Far Cry: Primal. It is even more difficult when a new patch or DLC is released for a game like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Destiny and we want to be the first to master the new changes being added that affect gameplay.
And while it is easy for EVERYONE to just say “play a little less” to makes sure you stay healthy, it’s much harder to actually follow through with this (for reasons stated above – games are awesome).
Why not provide the gamers with the proper tools AND how to use them to stay healthy while gaming?
If I could only tell you gamers to change one thing for the next year that will help your health, it would be to take gaming breaks. There are truly so many benefits to taking breaks during a gaming binge, even if it only lasts for 5 minutes. With the proper routine during your break, you can prevent excessive strain to your muscles, allow your eyes to maintain their acuity, improve body-wide circulation and minimize cognitive fatigue.
Breaks can not only give you an advantage in the game but also prolong your gaming lifetime.
Let’s be Honest
Before I go through what you should be doing during these breaks, let’s have an honest conversation about breaks in the eSports community.
It seems that everyone knows that they NEED to take a break to ensure longevity for their gaming career, but no one does it…and it pains me. I think I know why though… all of the suggestions that are given to you are too unrealistic. Either they ask for breaks every 20 minutes (which is pretty much impossible given the nature of games these days)or don’t really specify how often to take a break.
While 20 minutes may be ideal, again it’s not realistic for the majority of games out there. Competitive games last for at least 30-40 minutes and even longer for some. So, I want to provide the solution for this:
When to take your breaks and the length of them should depend on the type of game you are playing. The nature of all games aren’t the same. Refer to my awesome table below to understand.
Type of Game
When to take your break
How long should your break be
Any game with quick matches/games – Between 5 to 10 minutes (Smash, hearthstone)
Competitive: (CS:GO, LoL, Sc2, Dota2, etc.)
After each match – Between 30-40 Minutes.
MMO – Single-Player (WoW, Destiny, etc.)
After 50 minutes
As you can see the longer you play, the longer your break should be
Caveat: I want you guys to remember that these are GENERAL GUIDELINES. There is no way that once 30, 40, or 50 minutes is up that you’re just going to throw your controller/keyboard up in the air and start doing some squats. I understand that. That’s why just take your break as close as possible to these guidelines.
If you finish your League game at 25 minutes, just take your break. Don’t insta queue. If your CS:GO mm/esea/cevo game goes the distance into the 30 rounds.. then take your break after it’s over.
So as you can see then.. a big part of gaming is.. keeping track of how long you’re playing! There are implications with your posture too!
So based on my beautiful table above SET AN ALARM or TIMER that will go off at the designated time. Make sure it is a sound that you hate and not a song you love otherwise, you’ll lose your interest in that song (the radio phenomenon). When it beeps, go ahead and take the break of suggested length.
THE THREE THINGS
Now FINALLY, Let’s get into how you can make the best out of your breaks. Here are my TOP 3 Things to do during your gaming break
GET THE BLOOD FLOWING
Get up. Walk and Breath. This is the very first thing you should do…. And it is not difficult to do. Get in at least 30 steps. There are countless resources out there that underline the benefits of walking, and while it is not the recommended amount of time (30 minutes), the 30 steps is good enough for several effects! It can help with blood flow that has been pooling in your legs for the, most likely, hour that you’ve been playing. A recent study has shown that the effects of blood pooling when sitting for an hour can be reversed by getting up to walk for at least 5 minutes. 
Try not to speed walk and finish these 30 steps as quickly as possible, enjoy the break that you have and go at a slower pace. While you are walking or after you are done walking and have arrived back at your gaming chair you can do a simple but powerful breathing
Let’s call it the Snorlax breathing Exercise. It’s essentially a deep breathing,
meditative exercise which have been shown to reduce stress, provide mental relaxation, address anxiety and even improve your heart/lung fitness.
In order to perform this breathing technique:
1. Close your eyes and sit in an upright seated position
2. Slowly Count 1-2-3-4 seconds deeply inhale through the nose into the stomach, follow this with again a slow count of 1-2-3-4 to exhalation through the mouth for another 10 seconds.
3. Repeat this 5 times – 5 slow breaths only
REDUCE EYE FATIGUE WITH SOME MASSAGE
Eye strain is extremely common amongst gamers and it is typically because we are exposed to a bright screen, blue light and sometimes LED backlighting. This sometimes causes our eyes to feel dry, blurry and can cause headaches and worsen your vision! (oh no!)
A series of quick and easy eye massages can go a long way in preventing and relieving symptoms of eye strain. These techniques will help to improve blood flow to the eyes and relax overused/strained muscle
Eye Socket Massage – Keeping your eyes closed, use your middle finger to gently and slowly massage your eye sockets down to the bridge of the nose. Repeat 10 times.
Pressure Points – Press and hold pressure points for 3 seconds just inside of the eye brows and at the temples to provide some more blood flow to your eyes
Eye Crease – Another unique pressure point area is just right above the eye crease. You should feel a slight rebound from the tissue here. Press and slowly release for 5 seconds and do this 5 times
Temples – Use your middle fingers to massage your temples (the hollow area on the side of your face) in small circles for 1 minute.
Palming with Eye Movement – Warm your hands by rubbing them together. Close your eyes and place your warm palms over the eyes for 30 seconds, without applying pressure. While you are doing this, move your eyes slowly up/down, left/right. Slowly open your eyes after and spend a couple of seconds re-accommodating to the light.
Prolonged sitting has long been known to compromise health in several ways. From adaptive tightening of muscles in along your back, hips and chest to reduced heart and metabolic function – Sitting for extended periods of time is one of the main causes of health issues amongst us gamers. Another reason why posture is extremely important
To combat these negative health effects we can perform a few essential exercises and stretches during our gaming break:
- Air Squat (10x)
- Standing Toe Reach (10x) 4”/2”
- Double Stretch (2×30”)
- Reverse Hug (15x)
- Tendon Gliding (20x)
Each of these exercises has a role in working against the stress on your body while sitting. The Air Squat improves overall blood flow. The Standing Toe reach maintains flexibility along the back side of your lower body. The Double Stretch works to lengthen the most commonly shortened muscle at your hip while preventing adaptive shortening and excessive strain on hand, wrist and forearm muscles. The Reverse Hugs keep prevent the development of that hunched posture that we’re all so used to seeing. and Finally the tendon glides – which can reduce pressure on the median nerve as any adhesions that may have developed through the inflammatory healing process can be released, allowing the tendons and more importantly the nerve to move within the tunnel.
Bonus: Proper Nutrition
Surprise! Countless research has shown that specific nutrients can affect our brain’s processes as well as our emotions. And because of the sheer amount of food products there are out there, we have an endless amount of options to choose from. I want to simplify this for you and provide you with easy-to-buy options that aren’t bland just to fulfill your nutrition needs. So here are my top 4 healthy snacks that you can eat to stimulate and support your brain.
Nuts – Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews and more. Nuts are linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control and improved brain function. If I could only choose two of the many nuts offered out there.. I would choose Walnuts and Almonds. A fistful of each of these during your breaks (even if they’re seasoned to your taste, which I prefer) can keep you focused during gaming. Whether it be clutch situations, solving a difficult part of an adventure game or continuing to micro your hero throughout long games, nuts are a great source of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats to supplement during breaks or even while you are gaming.
2. Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate is loaded with various nutrients that is beneficial for not only your brain but also your heart. It scores amongst the highest in antioxidant capability that can both improve blood flow, lower blood pressure even regulate cholesterol. The more important component of dark chocolate that I love are the stimulants caffeine and theobromine – improving your mental acuity for when you return to gaming. Again, it can be the snack that will give you the edge in a 1v1 situation.
3. Tea or Water
Gamers should always have some sort of liquid with them during gaming or their breaks to stay hydrated. Brain tissue actually shrinks during states of dehydration and this can absolutely affect how you game – Short-term memory, focus and decision making are all impaired. Water is a given, but there are also other options that can be a little more tasty/pleasing to your taste buds. Green tea is by far one of my favorites with a healthy combination of caffeine and antioxidants. Coconut water and a glass of Orange Juice are other non-boring alternatives to staying hydrated.
Just like in many games out there, berries give you hp. They improve your health. In what way? They keep you mentally sharp through a type of antioxidant called flavonoids , keep you hydrated and provide a tasty source of fiber/folate (which can help manage unhealthy cholesterol and improve your mood, respectively) . So whether it be dry or fresh, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries can be a big source of antioxidants to have during your gaming break.
The Bottom Line:
Get up, Walk, Massage your eyes and do some exercises to make the best out of your gaming breaks. And while on your walks, make sure you stop by your kitchen or pantry and grab some healthy snacks to have while you’re gaming or during your break.
Till next time…
- Thosar, Saurabh S., Sylvanna L. Bielko, Kieren J. Mather, Jeanne D. Johnston, and Janet P. Wallace. “Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 47.4 (2015): 843-49. Web.
- Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience Nat Rev Neurosci 9.7 (2008): 568-78. Web.
- Rice-Evans, Catherine. “Flavonoid Antioxidants.” CMC Current Medicinal Chemistry 8.7 (2001): 797-807. Web.