6 Surprising Health Benefits of Video Gaming
By: Anna Galic
Stereotypes associated with gamers do not always paint them as the picture of health and fitness. Certainly staying indoors for hours on end is not the best way to gain fitness – but video games can actually boost your health in many other areas that people do not necessarily think of. They can increase dexterity and reflexes, improve your cognitive abilities, deal with lazy eye – even help battle dyslexia. Let’s take a closer look.
Video gaming usually requires a flair for coordination – being able to process the input from your eyes and return action output requires coordinated action between eyes (and senses in general), hand and brain. This is why video games were found to improve dexterity in general: In a study conducted by Italian scientists at the University of Rome, 21 surgeons were enlisted to play games on the Nintendo Wii console for one hour daily over the course of a month. After the experiment was completed, the residents who took part were found to perform significantly better in complicated surgeries like laparoscopy than doctors who did not play video games.
In many video game settings, players are asked to focus for relatively long periods of time on specific information – like navigating a map or achieving a campaign goal. This is especially true in strategy and shooting games like Call of Duty or Halo, and it increases concentration and attention, which some researchers believe is linked to how dyslexia affects our learning abilities. Often, video games where the player is asked to complete missions will have dialogue boxes with instructions on how to proceed pop up like in popular strategy game Skyrim, which are also often read aloud to the gamer. This helps with associating specific letters and sounds. Dyslexia is not an uncommon ailment, even though its root is not perfectly clear, it is important to find fun ways that can help combat its impact.
When we talk about gaming we do not just mean the usual suspects, like Riot Games’ League of Legends, that have millions of devoted fans worldwide. Simpler, “casual” games like puzzles and memory games that stimulate the brain’s different capabilities can also have a positive effect on our cognitive, deductive and reasoning abilities, as well as boost our memory and slow down the aging process of our brain. This holds true oddly even for casino games, as cited from Betway Online, when slot games are named after a person “Not only is this something that is familiar to the gambler but may also be something that the potential gamblers might like or affiliate themselves with, such as James Bond.” Further examples shown are popular card games like blackjack or baccarat, where players need to demonstrate skill in calculating possible card combinations with memory and strategic thinking in order to decide when to hit and when to stand. The same goes for word puzzle games like Words with Friends, or even complicated number games that require analytical thinking, like Sudoku.
It is generally conceded that staring at a screen for long is not the best thing you can do to your eyes. Yet, in the case of video gaming, things are slightly different, as eyes need to adapt to constant movement and concentrate on details like different colors or shapes. This is precisely the case in platform video games like Super Mario, where gamers tend to focus on characters moving around to avoid dangers and collect objects. One study discussed in a Mental Floss article revealed that after 10 weeks of gaming, participants were in a better position to discern between different shades of grey. According to another research, participants were asked to play video games by covering their strong eye in order to rely on their lazy eye and exercise it. The outcome was that the lazy eye was significantly improved and in some cases to an almost normalized degree.
Pain Relief and Anxiety Levels
According to a review of 38 scientific studies that was published in 2012 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that gaming is good for your health – in general. Across 195 patients, video games were found to help improve their mental and physical health. In another study published in 2010, participants were found to cope better with increased stress or pain related to medical processes or even chronic illnesses, in particular when engaging with virtual reality games, like The Climb.
In a world where video games are constantly evolving, and fighting games like Tekken or Street Fighter or first person shooters that require you to constantly be on the lookout for the enemy, search for cover, move to avoid getting hit or shooting at your opponents, all decisions that have to be made within split seconds, were found to improve reflexes. This means that gamers usually respond faster and have better reflexes than people who do not take the time to play video games – they even perform better than many professional athletes.
So if you would like to do something for your health while having fun indoors, maybe you should consider dusting off that old Playstation and revisiting your favorite games – but remember that everything is good in moderation!
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