I’m writing this to set the record straight. A lot of us do not understand how exercise, posture, stretching, breaks all fit into the puzzle of gaming health and I want to make it as clear as possible for everyone.
As I have said many times before – Esports is an ENDURANCE Sport. We cannot DENY the physical demands of gaming as an activity: Sitting for extended periods of time performing high actions per minute with our wrist, hands and forearms. And while it may seem harmless, it has its negative effects.
While I can go on about those negative effects… I’d rather just show you how our bodies work. And how understanding gaming health from this perspective can help us live better and game better.
Avoid Gaming Injuries: Reduce your Time to strain or “overheating rate”
Avoiding injuries in Gaming and staying healthy is about preventing overheating – Posture, Ergonomics, Lifestyle design, nutrition, exercise and sleep all play an important role in overheating. How? Let me tell ya
Posture And Ergonomics
As we have mentioned many times in our articles – when considering gaming health it is a great idea to look at both Posture and Ergonomics first. Why? Because it places our joints in the position of least stress on the supporting tissues and allow our muscles to work optimally. What does this mean for us?
It takes longer for our muscles to fatigue. Our overheating rate is then reduced!
This means we can play for LONGER, with less likelihood of pain. Learn more about how you can have better posture/ergonomics for better gaming in my full guide on posture/ergonomics.
Lifestyle Design in Gaming
How we schedule our gaming sessions can make a huge difference in our health. Designing our gaming lifestyle is all about understanding the physical demands of gaming and how it affects our bodies in the short-term and long-term. With this understanding (stiffness in tissues and joints, slower metabolism, mental malaise, etc.) we can make sure we take enough breaks but also schedule realistic lengths of gaming.
Many of us play games when we get home from school, work or on the weekends when we have more time and generally it is about 3-4 hours at a time. The length itself can be an issue, but the absence of breaks is the larger issue. Planning for a 5 minute break every hour can go a long way into prolonging your gaming career and reducing the rate of overheating.
Allowing a gaming break to rest, grab some snacks, perform some exercises (like this awesome binge-proof wrist routine) allows us to COOLDOWN. The more we play without stopping, the more we are likely to overheat and reach “strain levels!”
I will be exploring more in depth about lifestyle design very soon – please look out for the article 😉
Nutrition and Sleep in Gaming Health
The two most undervalued aspects of health in the gaming community currently are nutrition and sleep. Many of us play late into the night mostly because we get carried away with our games or we are chasing the W after a series of unfortunate soloQs…
We lose sleep and as it has been show so many times in the research our cognitive performance is affected. Our attention, working and long-term memory along with our decision making is impaired when we have any level of sleep deprivation. Any night of sleep less than 7 hours (6 for some of us who won the genetic lottery) can cause this. Not only does it affect our cognitive abilities but it can affect the various systems of our bodies (immune, cardiovascular, digestive, hormone, respiratory) leading again to….
Increased rate of overheating. Overheating when it comes to lack of sleep does not only mean increased likelihood of muscle strain but also the development of other medical conditions (from less harmful upper respiratory infections to more harmful metabolic/digestive issues).
Don’t skimp on sleep – Get at least 7 hours. But also do not forget to fuel your body! Our nutrition and diet fuels our body’s physiologic functions and again plays a role in prevention of overheating. We often forget to eat or oversnack on less-than-healthy foods which often leave us feeling bloated/uncomfortable after our gaming sessions. This is normal and is most often a result of the convenience of these snacks in our kitchen/house. Planning ahead with a good balance of snacks can be helpful – check out my break article for some good options and look out for some future more in-depth articles about nutrition.
With nutrition it is again the likelihood of muscle strain but also mental fatigue as our diets are important in fueling our brain.
So remember – sleep well and eat well so you can game well.
The big question: Where does exercise and fitness fit into gaming health?
This is always the big question – how does exercise help prevent injuries? How does general conditioning (from callisthenic training to weightlifting to cardio) prevent injuries in gaming? Hopefully it has become clearer to you now with the idea of an overheating meter.
Exercise is the #1 way to improve the size of our overheating meter. Specific exercise which targets the muscles we use most commonly in gaming (the postural sitting muscles and the shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles) increases the muscular endurance of our muscles. More endurance means being able to tolerate more repeated stresses before becoming strained.
So more endurance means a larger overheating meter. Do not be afraid to explore exercise! Look into our movement monday series to learn how to squat, run, perform yoga and much more.
Cooldown More Quickly: Better Gaming Health with Stretching, Massages
Now that you have a better perspective on what can affect the overheating meter. Let me share with you guys some other ways we can improve the “cooldown” of the meter after we play for our extended gaming sessions and are near overheating.
We have written about each of these several times and hopefully by putting it in the perspective of cooldown/overheating, it will make more sense as to how these strategies help. Four key strategies to assist in cooldown are
- Stretching: To undo the stiffness which develops from prolonged sitting and lack of movement
- Soft Tissue Work (Massage): To relax muscles which are active for extended periods of time and also facilitate better healing when muscles are strained
- Heat/Ice: To again relax the muscles we use after prolonged sitting and to address pain if we are dealing with strain. Check out articles written by both Caitlin and I on this topic (Here and Here, respectively)
- Gaming Break: As mentioned above – allowing some rest for our mind and muscles can provide “cooldown” to our bodies.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Our bodies have overheating mechanics we have control over in order to prevent injury. We can do several things to influence the time-to-strain (rate of overheating) as well as how quickly we cooldown once we are overheated.
- Improve your Posture and Ergonomics
- Take effective breaks and schedule your gaming sessions appropriately
- Sleep and Eat well
- Explore movement and exercise to play for longer with less risk of injury
Stay healthy gamers, and look out for more articles about each of these topics by joining the 1HP horde and subscribing to our newsletter!
Till next time,