Welcome to the same beating drum you’ve heard over and over again. “How to get fit” or “How to lose weight”, go to the gym, go outside, blah blah blah. No. Today I’m going to run you through MY guide, the gamers guy, to keeping healthy while still sinking our hard earned time into video games. I’m someone coming from the same place as you and I’m not going to try and tell you to stop chomping down on Doritos and Mountain Dew (can’t actually guarantee that). My goal here is to help you out, and in doing so, help myself.
There’s a common gross misconception in society that gamers are fat, sweaty and unhealthy people, that video games leave us living like pigs, stuffing our mouths and not going outside. Whereas film buffs or television binge watchers aren’t categorised with us at all, and it’s unfair. No matter what body shape you are it doesn’t matter, you’re doing what you love, and all I want to do is keep you healthy while doing it.
Hydration is right here at the top of the list because above all things, this should be your priority, and this is a long one. Did you know we can actually get thirst pains? It’s not just a dry mouth that lets you know you’re ready for a drink. Sore eyes and/or neck, headaches, and finger/wrist pains are all major red flags when it comes to Hydration. Water is needed to carry acidic waste away from your cells, and when we’re dehydrated, these wastes don’t go anywhere, and leave our nerves to interpret this as pain.
So what’s the best kind of hydration? It’s not surprising so many E-Sport teams are sponsored by Monster, Red Bull, Mountain Dew and the like, there’s massive business there for us, and now we can understand why. If you’re sinking as many hours a day into your PC, console or handheld as I am, then there’s a chance you’re tired a lot. A lot of this pressure and minor fatigue leads us straight to the bad stuff, energy drinks and coffee. Now I know I’m preaching to a very small audience when I say you have to cut it out, but let me first give you the run down, then hopefully I can offer up some alternatives.
4 months ago I was drinking 2 coffees a day, one in the morning to wake myself up, and another around 9pm-10pm at night, which would get me through to around 3am just fine. I was also a big fan of soda, as most of us are. Since then I have not had anything else to drink besides water. I moved city and simultaneously decided to change the way I treated myself and my body. I cut out all un-natural sugars in my diet (more on that later) and any liquid that wasn’t plain, boring and simple H2O. It was weird, for the first week I had legitimate withdrawals from caffeine, adios coffee and soda, as well as decreased energy from the lack of un-natural sugar that came in a lot of the food I was eating. These withdrawals actually blew me away, neck pain, headaches and sore joints, the same symptoms of dehydration, except, I was more hydrated than ever before. Quickly these withdrawals went away, my body re-adjusted and I discovered that water had given me more energy and made me feel better than ever.
Did you know that Loughborough University found out that a mere 5% drop in water levels in our bodies can cause a 25-30% loss in energy. Even a 3% drop can cause fuzzy thinking and slower metabolism (which we’ll also cover), whereas as low as a 1.5% drop can cause headaches and fatigue. When you add all that up, with 70% of our bodies being water after all, it equates to only a few glasses of the good stuff, that is the difference between feeling good and feeling like a character in Dark Souls (very very bad). The easy way to figure out how much water you need is to take your weight in pounds, and divide it by 2. That’s how many ounces of water your body needs. An average glass is around 8 ounces, so you can do the math from there.
I’m not telling you to cut coffee, no-one’s going to do that realistically, it’s practically a modern day staple of our diets, but I am saying I’d be impressed if you could, and I think you would be even more. I do recommend cutting out sugary drinks, whether that means cutting your intake in half and replacing the rest with water, or only treating yourself when you need to, it’s entirely up to you.
What should we be eating while gaming? It’s a hard one, mainly because of dietary and energy requirements, but I’ll try give you the basics. Unless you’re looking to get the figure of Duke Nukem or Johnny Cage don’t even begin to worry about carbs or fats, because having those in moderation is absolutely fine for our bodies. Sugar is the real killer. If you’re intaking a lot of sugar it’s not so bad as long as you have the fibre to back it up. Things like candy and soda do not. The cloaked assassin in this scenario is fruit juice and sweet tea. The trick here is the marketing, you’d assume “Of course fruit is healthy!” Well- no. When juice is made, all of the fibre is lost in the process, so what you’re getting is flavour and sugar, and unfortunately you need all three for it be healthy. Eating fruit by it self is always a good way to go, the amount of fibre in an apple for example will deconstruct the sugar and turn it into insulin which is used to fuel your body, just like you’d deconstruct a weapon in The Division and use the parts to build something else, in our case, a healthier body. If you don’t have the fibre to deconstruct the sugar then it turns into fat, the body just doesn’t know how to deal with it and stores it elsewhere.
Doritos and pizza are fine everybody, calm down! But maybe go easy on the Mountain Dew, or don’t get the dessert on the side.
Oh dreaded exercise. Look, if you’re wanting to get in shape, go for a run, go to the gym, great- now leave this article. Cool- anyone still here? If you are then you’re like me, you might need to get in shape or you might already be confident with your physical image, but, it doesn’t mean you’re healthy. If you’re spending a lot of hours sitting at a desk or on the couch only using your hands then you’re probably in need of some light exercise. Let me run you through some techniques that I do while waiting for the next Call of Duty match to start. Just to be clear, these are not going to make you lose weight or sweat, but they’re good for your body, especially if you can do them all 2 – 3 times a day. They should only take 20 seconds – 1 minute and you can easily cram them into your short breaks, but more on that later. Here’s another few easy things to do in and around your Hyperion leather rule-the-world chair.
- Put your hands right up, grasp one another and create a circle above your head, then bend your torso to the right, feel the stretch under your armpit and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Do 10 push-ups, there’s no harm, and if you can’t do standard ones yet then just plant your knees on the ground or do them up against a wall.
- While sitting, lift your leg all the way up until it’s as straight as Pagan Min, then hold for 2 seconds while he kills your family, oops, was that a spoiler?! Repeat with the other leg.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is also becoming very common among 9-5 workers and gamers due to the extended use of our hands and it seems no-one knows about it. CTS is when a certain nerve in your wrist gets crushed by the wrath of Kratos (wait that doesn’t seem right?) and leads to tingling, itching, pain, swelling or burning in your fingers and wrists. There’s an easy solution to this, and it feels kinda good. Stand up or kneel near a desk or cabinet that’s around your waist height. Flip your hands over and place then top down on the surface so your fingers are facing you. Keep your forearm straight and slowly move your body down until you feel like it’s stretched.
4. POSTURE AND STRETCHES
Here’s another really important one (as if they all aren’t). It’s vital that you maintain good posture. Sit upright, back straight, chin slightly tilted down and BAM, +10% maximum health- I think. Seriously, bad posture, slouching or those many weird ways you lie down on your bed while playing games will lead to problems with digestion, breathing, muscles, joints and ligaments and of course we need all those to keep ourselves alive until Half Life 3 comes out. Lots of gamers report sore necks, shoulders and backs which are huge problems. Make sure your TV or Monitor is at eye level with you so you’re not straining yourself too much.
5. EYE STRAIN
Eye strain is overlooked a lot when considering what might cause you pain or discomfort while gaming, and it’s a really short one to cover- in fact, why don’t you just jump down to the next tip.
Taking breaks tie in with eye strain, hydration and exercise, so it’s a lot easier to cover that all at once now. Here’s what I do. I’ll usually play a game for around an hour or two. I’ll stand up and stretch which feels pretty good, go for a walk around the house, drink a glass of water and refill another to take back to the Batcave. To finish I’ll go through a quick exercise routine, a bit more intense than the one listed above before planting my butt back down for some more questing and what not. Research indicates that even that small amount of time, 5 minutes of walking, stretching, exercise and rehydration is enough to sort out eye-strain, replenish your mana- uh- no- energy levels and get you feeling better overall, plus, just standing up for 1 minute gives you enough blood flow to your brain to grant you 30% more overall brain activity, which is very handy if you’re working your way through The Witness.
Another short but sweet one, as obvious as it sounds, get some fresh air (like what normal people breathe). Open a window if you can, a door even and let fresh oxygen enter your system, this allows your muscles to lock and load for another battle on Hoth.
8. WEIGHT LOSS
This is an extra tip for people who might be looking for something a little bit more hardcore, let’s call this veteran mode, or uber mode, or impossible- wait no, not impossible.
There’s two reasons you might be overweight. Reason one is a cluster of things, but really it comes down to sugar and lack of exercise. Reason two is low metabolism, which is pretty much just a hard boss fight, except you’re at a disadvantage compared to other players. Having a low metabolism means it’s way harder for your body to break down the bad things your eating, so a lot of it is turning into fat. If you’ve tried exercise and diets before with no luck, there’s a chance you fall under this category, that or you’re just Jabba the Hut, in which case, I can’t help you sorry. Here are a few ways you can speed up your metabolism.
- Eat more dairy products
- Same goes for protein and red meats
- Drink cold/chilled water as opposed to warm
Thankfully for us, video games don’t actually make you fat. In a Michigan State University study, psychology professor Linda Jackson looked at the video game playing habits and weight of 482 people. Jackson found no statistical connection between obesity and playing video games.
None of this is that hard, but it’s interesting how little you can do to make such a big improvement to your health. If you’re feeling a little under the weather the next time you’re playing Destiny, wait- people still play that? Then maybe try some of these things for yourself, or don’t. At the end of the day, your body is your Temple of Time and if you’re not going to look after it, chances are Link will come and pillage its dungeons.