For many of us, gaming is a way of life, but like all lifestyle choices, it has its pros and cons regarding health. The pros: Gaming can boost learning, mood and social skills. The cons: Unbalanced gaming can lead to dopamine addiction, depression, aggression and obesity, with its side effects of lower testosterone, slower reaction times and mental fogginess. The good news is that the key to a healthy, stress-free gaming lifestyle is in your hands.
Whether you play PUBG, Apex Go, League of Legends, CS:GO or online casino games, it’s all a question of finding the right balance so you can enjoy the entertainment you love while remaining healthy and active. Read our tips and ideas for a healthy living program.
1. Take care of your body
Exercise is imperative for gamers who want to stay healthy and active. As a general rule, you should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day. One reason is cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Long hours in front of the screen can raise the levels of cortisol in your body. But don’t worry: You don’t have to suddenly get all serious and join a gym! Low-intensity exercise such as a light walk, a stretching routine, a beginner’s yoga workout or swimming can help to reduce cortisol levels. You can get similar benefits from light gardening, vacuuming, yard work, washing windows, mopping or even washing the car, as these household chores are also considered low-intensity exercise.
In addition to these general principles, you can benefit from doing a few stretches in between gaming sessions. A good stretch to relax your thumbs and fingers goes like this: Make a fist, flex your wrists towards your forearm, and open your hand gently. Repeat five to 10 times.
Other stretches that are good to learn include the thumb extensor stretch, cross-body stretch, chest-to-arm stretch, external bicep stretch, tricep stretch and backward arm stretch. Search Google for example videos.
Another important thing to take care of is your eyes. Most people overlook how much strain gaming puts on your peepers. To avoid headaches, nausea and potential eye damage, try the 20-20-20 rule: Look at something 20ft away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Your eyes will thank you, and your gaming performance will probably improve.
2. Take care of your diet
A balanced diet is a critical element of any healthy living program. It’s all too easy to favor convenience over quality and snack on processed or fast food during a game. But highly processed foods don’t provide your body with all the nutrients you require. They’re high in fats and low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, break down quickly in your body and can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Your body then reacts by dropping your blood sugar levels. This “sugar crash” can leave you feeling more fatigued – so you reach for another unhealthy snack. In the worst scenario, this vicious junk-food circle can bring on diabetes.
The healthy alternative is to maintain a healthy balanced diet that includes the five food groups: Starchy carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy and healthy fats. Healthy food also releases energy slowly so you don’t get a sugar spike. That doesn’t mean you have to cut out in-game snacking entirely. Why not include some healthy snacks as part of your daily intake? Unless you’re allergic to nuts, organic almonds, cashews, macadamias, peanuts and pistachios are what the doctor ordered. Complement with avocado or guacamole on wholegrain crackers. If you have a meat tooth, try beef jerky or biltong, a cured and spiced lean meat that is native to southern African countries. Look for good brands with natural spices and quality meats.
One more thing while we’re on this subject: Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Dehydration is bad news for anything that requires attention and memory skills. At least six to eight glasses of (non-alcoholic) fluid a day is what you need – but be careful of caffeine. Energy drinks containing caffeine can keep you sharp for a brief period but in the long run, they can cause anxiety and poor sleep. The best advice is to drink mostly water.
3. Take care of your mind
On the whole, gaming is scientifically proven to improve your mental health. Competitive mind sports and esports especially have been shown to combat stress and depression by releasing endorphins, boost players’ self-confidence, help develop problem-solving skills, develop a competitive mindset and stimulate the brain. Believe it or not, one of the most-watched mind sports is poker, which requires a much higher level of intelligence and strategy than any other casino table games.
That said, gamers can develop an unhealthy relationship with their favorite pastime. Some use gaming as a coping mechanism to forget about or ignore the world around them and spend too much time in front of the screen. Others become stressed or angry instead of treating gaming as recreation. These gamers are in the absolute minority – one UK study by Oxford University’s Internet Institute shows that just 0.3% of gamers might experience these problems – but it’s worth considering whether these problems apply to you. If you do find yourself going on tilt while playing casino games, step away from “the felt” or screen immediately and don’t return until you’re in a better mood.
Another key indicator of whether you’re in the right mood to enjoy gaming is whether you’re getting enough sleep. Eight to nine hours of quality sleep a night helps you maintain focus and improves your decision-making. If your gaming takes over to the point of insomnia, it may be time to get help and take action.
4. Take care of your social life
Gaming is a tremendously social activity with endless opportunities for gamers to broaden their social network. Video gamers socialize via Discord channels and Twitch streams, while team play can be a highly bonding experience. If you like to play casino games, you can connect with people in multiplayer games or chat rooms. You can also get to know people by playing casino table games such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat in a live casino online.
At the same time, it’s necessary to stay connected with people in real life. To stay grounded in reality, you need real-life family and friends as well as all your virtual gamer buddies. A win-win approach to this is to bring your social and gaming worlds together. You could meet your fellow gamers for exercise in a park, for instance, or meet up for dinner after a game.
5. Take a break
Practice makes perfect in gaming, as in sports, but it’s also important to take breaks. You can experience fatigue if you play repeated sessions of your favorite esports or casino table games. It’s hard work for the brain to process all that information, so it’s a good idea to take some downtime away from the gaming space and relax.
One relaxation technique that’s very effective is progressive muscle relaxation. It’s an efficient way to quickly relax your body and you can even do it moments before you start a new game. You pick one muscle group (such as your fists) at a time, then tighten and release them for about five seconds, and repeat two or three times. Go through your entire body until the exercise is complete. If you can, regulate your breathing as well. Inhale all the way to your stomach, hold your breath for a few seconds, and release. Repeat for a few cycles.
Another option is to switch to low-intensity games that help you chill. Minecraft, The Sims 4, Firewatch, Journey, No Man’s Sky and the best online slots are all good ways to take a break between more serious gaming sessions.
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