Health benefits of gaming
Want to get healthy? You may be looking in the wrong place
Many of us make a lot of effort in the pursuit of health and the perfect body. We may pursue the perfect diet or the ideal workout regimen. Some of us may even take supplements to increase our cognitive power or practice mindfulness. However, most of us will not have thought of a solution to the health problem like the one suggested by much recent research: playing video games.
This is because a lot of research has suggested that playing video games can actually be very good for your health. For example, gaming can have a multitude of cognitive benefits. It can, for example, increase the size of the brain areas that are associated with certain tasks, i.e. spatial awareness and long-term planning. In fact, Magnetic Resonance Imagery has actually shown an increase in grey matter in these areas. Gaming actually makes your brain bigger! Gaming has also been shown in various studies to improve memory and the retention of information, to reduce the incidence of depression, and to increase the ability of somebody to cope with subjective sensations of pain and malaise. As if that was not enough, gaming has also been shown to promote recovery after an operation or after a traumatic event, and even minimize the experience of flashbacks to this event.
Gaming thus has been shown to have a multitude of clinical applications. For example, research has suggested it can reduce depression and other mental health conditions, through having a cathartic effect on the player, allowing them to release their tension and simply take their mind off the stresses and strains of contemporary life. In this way, gaming can also be helpful in treating attention disorders, as games oblige the player to maintain focus and cut out external distractions, and this is very beneficial to those with disorders such as ADHD.
Those who are suffering from a chronic illness may not immediately seek to start a treatment regimen that involves gaming. This may be a mistake. A study conducted in Utah University shown that those with illnesses such as depression, Asperger’s syndrome and Parkinson’s showed greater resilience as a result of playing video games, and it was speculated that the participants’ cognitive reaction to their illness was changed into a more positive reaction through the games impact on the participants’ neural circuits responsible for positive thoughts.
As well as this, gaming can provide an invaluable form of treatment in elderly care, which is becoming increasingly important due to the changing demographics in most western countries. Research has strongly suggested that gaming can improve cognitive function in the elderly generally, and it can also improve self-esteem and quality of life. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to think how this may affect elderly care. Gaming could truly revolutionize the care given to an elderly, and prove to be a valuable tool to fight the veritable epidemics that are Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Likewise, you may think that if you want to lose weight then gaming is not the answer. However, this also might not be so. This is because there is a new trend in gaming, otherwise known as exergaming, which involves playing video games whilst using your body as the controller. Think Nintendo Wii, or games with dance mats, or the Xbox Kinect. This likely will have massive implications for general societal wellness and for the exercise industry more generally. As we have seen, you can find ways to good health and wellness and perhaps surprising places.
As we have seen from the examples above, gaming is not only about lazing out on a Saturday night with your buddies. True it is that too. However, gaming can have genuine health benefits, both in terms of your cognitive health and your physiological health. If you are a gamer, rest easy: it is not doing you any harm, and may, in fact, be doing you a whole host of good. If you never been a gamer, perhaps dip your toe in. The water is fine!
Just remember that excess of everything is bad.
Find out more about the amazing health benefits of gaming by studying the infographic below from our partners at Computer Planet.