The Healthy Gamer

healthy-gamer

The Healthy Gamer

This week on the Obsolete Gamer show we had the chance to speak with Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput on his research study on video game playing and the increase in food intake. We discussed the effects of video games on the body and how it can result in weight gain due to overeating and how even motion games like the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect may not be the answer.

There has been many articles on gamers health including the effects it can have on your life. However many focus only on the negative effects and not so much on how to game and still remain healthy and safe.  On the panel we discussed various ways to be a healthy gamer as well as the negative effects of playing video games for too long.

So check it out and let us know what you think and remember, you can download our podcasts on ITunes and now we are available on Stitcher Radio.

Or listen here.

Gamers Health: Gaming Injuries

You’d be surprised how hard it can be going from always playing on the couch to competing in a game of video dance off. ~J.A. Laraque

Gamers Health: Gaming Injuries

In our last Gamers Health article we talked about small changes gamers could make to be healthier. This time we talk about some of the injuries and health issues that can occur during or due to gaming. The first thing that came to mind is my friend and Obsolete Gamer writer, Ashley Brito who after years of gaming sometimes wears a brace on his wrist to protect it. Often changing how you game and taking breaks can prevent issues down the line, but sometimes you just have to deal with them after they occurred.

video game injuries

The US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reported that from 2004 to 2009 696 people were injured due to video games. Consider that is the number reported and counted as legit video game related injuries. How many of us have had back or wrist issues or other aches and pains due to gaming? Since then interactive motion games such as the Wii and Kinect has comes out leading to even more injuries not only of gamers, but of bystanders as well.

Repetitive stress injury is one of the most common health issues gamer’s face. Remember playing Mario Bros or Street Fighter for hours till your hands hurt? How about those 24 hour camps in Everquest for loot and your wrist begins to ache? It does not happen to every one and obviously the older you get the higher the chances you can sustain injury, but often simple measures can be taken to protect your body during game play.

kinect-injury

Just try comparing a long gaming session to working out and you will be laughed out of the building, but just like an athlete a gamer needs to warm up before going all out in a video game. Stretching the fingers and hands along with flexing the wrist can help loosen your joints. These exercises can also be used during breaks in gameplay to relieve stress.

The same can be applied to motion games. Just because it is a video game does not mean it is not physical activity. If you are playing the Olympic Games on the Kinect and it involves a wide range of motion it is best to stretch and prepare your body for that activity. This is especially true for those who are not normally active. You’d be surprised how hard it can be going from always playing on the couch to competing in a game of video dance off.

For those of us playing computer games posture is extremely important. I remember on a message board people asked for a picture of World of Warcraft player’s computer stations. I was surprised to see people using hard wooden chairs or stools for their desk chairs. When working in an office you might see employers use ergonomic chairs. This is to try and protect the back and neck of employees who are sitting at their desks for long periods of time working. If you are a computer gamer or user of any kind the right back and neck support is vital to prevent pain and other chronic issues that can arise.

wii

Believed it or not video games can strain the eyes. This can occur more frequently if the player is normally in a dark or dimly lit room with a bright computer or television screen. While you do not see it much now people use to buy visors for their computer screen to reduce glare and many swore it helped with eye strain. Today with so much going on in gaming one must pay even more attention to the screen and reading small text messages in games does not help either. However, taking steps like turning down the brightness, adding light to your room and turning away from your monitor to give your eyes a break are all ways to lessen eye strain.

In the past gamers used to talk about Atari Thumb or Nintendonitis. Classic gamers know all too well about getting blisters on their thumbs from playing games specially button heavy ones such as Track and Field. Years later the same injuries occur, but with knowledge we can treat and prevent many injuries and issues. Next time we will talk about the extreme health related issues and risks associated with gaming. Until then, tell us about your video game war wounds.

Gamers Health: The Journey

gamers health

It may seem strange that a fat guy like me is giving advice on being a healthy gamer, but considering I used to be twice the size I am now I believe I can help some of my fellow gamers nonetheless. Regardless of stereotype, recent data has shown that many gamers are overweight, out of shape and have a bad diet, but one does not have to give up gaming to get in better health.

One thing I learned is never try to do something you do not think you can keep up forever. What this means is if you start running 7 days a week and get fit that’s great, but if you cannot kept it up chances are you may give it up totally and revert back to the way you were.

A constant improvement is better than a roller-coaster and in the end even if you do not end up with a hard body you will be in better health which means you will live longer for more game time, win, win.

Now everyone is different and you should always talk with your doctor and if you are young, your parents as well, but these are some small steps you can take to be a bit more healthy.

Game Food

gamer food

I could tell you to always stop gaming when you eat, but that is not realistic for some. Again, the key is trying to fit health into what you know you will do anyway. There is no need to crash so low and hit rock bottom and then need to give up gaming altogether. Small steps can mean a lot and in many cases once you start you will want to continue and expand.

If you play games with people you will at one time or another need to eat and the first thing I would recommend is to eat smaller portions during gaming and reserve your bigger meal for when you are not gaming.

For example, when playing a game eat something small and quick like almonds or a breakfast bar instead of a value meal or pizza. Often when gaming you will just keep grabbing food until you are full which can lead to overeating where as it is a little less likely if you are actually concentrating on your meal. Portion control is key.

Second, replace the foods you eat when gaming. Sure, I could say give up the burger and fries or the pizza or the hot pocket, but honestly if you are not ready to say goodbye to the fast-food it’s not going to happen. However, you can train yourself to eat healthy while gaming and then if you must, have the greasy stuff when out or with friends.

Fresh fruits and veggies

One of the main reasons we don’t eat healthy is because it is forced on us or it’s completely not available. To remedy this discover healthy foods you do like and then surround yourself with them. For instance if you have a sweet tooth while gaming sample different fruits and then pick an assortment of those and  try eating them while gaming.

What happens is your mind will accept the new foods because you are still focused on the game. If you thought to yourself “I’m eating an apple instead of skittles” then you might stop, but if you are playing and into the game and just naturally grab some grapes your mind will get used to it and you won’t even think about needing to grab candy anymore.

The same goes for what you drink. You might hate diet soda, juice and water, but when gaming and if you are thirsty you will accept almost anything. I began by switching to diet cola and then seltzer water and went from drinking 6 litters a day of soda to drinking water 90 percent of the time.

It’s all about setting the mood. If you know you are sitting down for that World of Warcraft raid, surround yourself with fruits and veggies and water and when it’s time to grab something that will be what you grab. After a few weeks it will become second nature and believe me once you start eating the good stuff you will want less of the bad stuff.

The younger you are the harder this may be to do since you may not notice yet what a bad diet can do to you, but over time small changes can add up to a lot leading to a better you.

Next time we will talk about adding exercise to your gaming life. Until then, if you have healthy foods that you eat during gaming we’d love to hear about them.