It’s an unfortunate stereotype that gamers are either overweight or sickly and pale from lack of sunlight. While this broad generalization is insulting and just plain untrue for many game fans, playing games for too long can be detrimental to your health. Here are six quick tips to stay healthy while gaming.
Avoid Eye Strain
Your eyes — like the rest of your body — aren’t built to work flat-out for your entire life. This is one of the reasons that we blink and sleep. But when using monitors or televisions, we often forget to blink. Keeping our eyes open dries them out and can cause long-term damage. Every twenty minutes, try and look at an object at least twenty feet away for at least twenty seconds. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule. You can find more tips here.
Try breaking up your play sessions like so: Do a level, make a sandwich, play another level, eat the sandwich, do a quest, clean up from lunch. Depending on how hard the game is or how you play, that could cover a good hour with solid breaks in between. Even just a few minutes of wandering around lets your muscles get in some practice and your eyes recuperate slightly.
Get Some Fresh Air
Something of an obvious health tip whle gaming is the need for fresh air. As you game, just leave a nearby window open a smidgen. If it’s in the next room, open it as far as you can (careful if you have pets) and maybe get a plant for your den. It probably isn’t going to refresh your air by itself but it can brighten up the room and make it smell better. Also, a quick stroll outside is a great way to take a break (see above).
Practice Good Posture
Something that not only keeps you healthy but helps you look professional is good posture. Sit upright with a straight back and slightly tilt your chin downwards. A quick hack here can be investing in a decent chair. Not necessarily one of those gaming ones with all the bells and whistles. Just a good, sturdy chair that allows you to sit upright and provides good support for your back.
While paddling my way through the Web, I happened across something rather brilliant. A gamer was determined to get in better shape, but he didn’t want to leave his precious games behind to do it. He came up with an ingenious solution to allow him to do both at the same time. Buying a second-hand exercise bike, he cobbled it together with a generator which he used to power his consoles.
While clever, this approach isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of other ways to stay fit that don’t require assembling your own exercise generator, a gym membership, or any equipment at all. Every so often, try some simple exercises. Depending on the space available, you can fit in things like lunges and squats for your legs, planks and sit-ups for your core, and push-ups for your upper body. Dumbells are also great exercise tools that are inexpensive and don’t take up much space, especially modular dumbells that allow you to vary the load. Just remember to be aware of your surroundings. Exercises like jumping jacks and burpees are great but require some space to avoid knowcking things over.
One important activity while taking a break is to do some light stretching. Your shoulders, arms, lower back, and legs can all get tight and become problem areas during long gaming sessions. Do stretches targeted at these areas of the body. Even a simple arm stretch during a loading screen will have immense long-term benefits.
Bonus Round: Play Outside
Playing outside doesn’t necessarily mean sports. There are lots of outdoor activities unrelated to any sport that are still great ways to stay in shape. Here are a few nerdier alternatives.
This is somewhat of a community activity. Geo-caching is an activity where you search out points of interest hidden all around us that can be found using map coordinates and a GPS. The caches themselves can contain “treasures” (usually cheap junk) that you can take providing you replace it with something else for the next person to find.
Ingress is a unique game from Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, that tasks players with actively seeking out new real-world locations and “hacking” them in order to obtain keys. Once you have three keys, you can connect the three locations to claim the land inside (if the other team hasn’t gotten to it first). Locations are usually historic landmarks or important buildings such as courthouses or churches.
In Pokémon Go you capture Pokémon that you encounter at Pokéstop landmarks and while walking around. The game uses augmented reality to make it appear as if the Pokémon are right there in front of you. Once you catch a Pokémon, they can be leveled up and evolved to prepare them to fight at local gyms. Some Pokémon can only be found in specific locations, which can actually result in you getting out and exploring more of your surroundings.