How Playing a Video Game Benefits Your Health

Xbox game controller

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Many parents try to protect their children from the perceived dangers of video games. While some games are violent, plenty of titles are safe to play for all ages. Too much gaming of any kind can be counterproductive to your health. Still, did you know playing a video game benefits your health? From Mario Party to Madden, your brain will thank you for gaming in moderation. Here’s a guide on how video games can benefit your health.

How A Video Game Benefits Your Health

People who look down on video game benefits should look at the science. Research has been kind to the gaming community in the last few years by demonstrating these five advantages.

Staying Active

Wii consoles and controllers rest on hardwood.

You don’t normally associate video games with physical activity. However, you can still exercise with video games. Nintendo revolutionized this idea in the mid-2000s when it released the Wii. This console and Wii Sports, the game it comes with, get you off the couch and moving with boxing, baseball, tennis and other sports. An older Ace Fitness study reveals Wii boxing burns about 216 calories every 30 minutes played. At the same time, the other sports provided promising results. 

A 2019 Perspectives on Psychological Science study supports the idea of physical activity from video games. The researchers say including exercise in video games increases your enjoyment and improves your physical health. The Wii and Kinect days are gone, but you can still exercise with the Nintendo Switch and its sports titles. 

Treating ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem you typically see in children because it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder. It often lasts into adulthood, making life harder for a person with the disorder. People with ADHD may show signs like excessive talking, daydreaming, fidgeting and other symptoms. 

Fortunately, research has demonstrated video games can treat ADHD. A 2020 European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry study finds video game therapeutics positively affected children in cognitive areas and eased their ADHD symptoms. 

So, why are video games effective at treating ADHD? Playing video games requires heightened focus, regardless of whether you play Stardew Valley, Call of Duty or The Last of Us. More testing is necessary, and optimized software could help when developers and health care professionals collaborate. 

Boosting Cognitive Performance

Did your parents or grandparents warn you about video games rotting your brain when you were a kid? While too much gaming can negatively impact children, video games have cognitive benefits. We’re not saying 11-year-old children should play Grand Theft Auto, but kids can reap benefits from puzzle and strategy games requiring critical thinking. 

A 2022 study examined over 2,200 children, some playing video games and others not. The researchers looked for how video games affected cognitive performance to see if there was a demonstrable advantage or disadvantage. Ultimately, they concluded the gaming children saw small levels of boosted cognitive performance over their peers. However, the caveat for these kids included attention problems and higher ADHD scores.

Relieving Stress

Imagine getting home after a long day, and the only thing you want to do is turn on the game and find an escape. If you’ve felt like this before, you’re not alone. Video games are popular stress relievers. Blowing off steam can come in different forms, including racing on Mario Kart, winning battle royales on Fortnite and doing heists on Grand Theft Auto. The positive mental impact is hardly a coincidence. 

In 2020, the world reached a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When stuck at home, what else did you have to do besides play video games? A 2021 study examined how playing video games affected those stuck at home due to local regulations or personal choice. As it turns out, video games were a positive factor. Researchers found that 58% of gamers saw a positive impact from playing video games. These subjects stated stress relief and reduced anxiety as a pair of factors. 

Increasing Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity likely isn’t a term you hear unless you’re in the medical field. However, it’s essential for humans as we grow into adulthood and our senior years. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s capacity to recognize and adapt based on the environment. For example, learning a new skill utilizes your brain’s plasticity because your mind needs to go down new paths it hasn’t recognized before. 

Video games are another way you can encourage brain plasticity. In fact, a 2020 study examined how the brain reacts to video games regarding its plasticity. The researchers specifically looked at attentional control and reward processing and concluded video games can have a positive correlation with elasticity if developers integrate neurofeedback into their titles. 

Other Video Game Benefits

Video games can be a divisive topic, but they often do more good than harm. Here are a few more video game benefits gamers experience daily. 

Making New Friends

Friends playing a sports video game on the PlayStation 4.

Some titles intend you to play alone, whereas others encourage community and companionship. Video games unite people by letting you make new friends, whether directly through the game, Discord, Reddit or other platforms where people discuss their games.

You never know who you’re going to meet in these games. For example, longtime NASCAR spotter T.J. Majors met Dale Earnhardt Jr. through online racing and became friends. Later, Majors became Earnhardt Jr.’s spotter for long phases of his racing career. You might not meet Dale Jr. on Call of Duty. Still, many professional athletes partake in online video games nowadays. 

Learning Something New

A collection of old gaming consoles, including the Commodore and the Game Boy.

Most video games occur in fantasy worlds, but many titles base themselves on real-world situations. In fact, you may even learn something new in the games you play. The Oregon Trail is one of the earliest educational games, as it became popular in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Players learn about life on the trail as you lead your settlers to the Pacific Ocean in the mid-19th century. 

Another example of education video games is Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30. Many games have been based on World War II, but this game digs deeper into actual events. The publisher, Ubisoft, tells the story of the Normandy invasion through Sergeant Matt Baker. They used Harrison Summers, an authentic WWII sergeant, to inspire the game’s main character. In the game, you’ll learn more about what the Allies went through.  

Experiencing Triumph

There’s hardly a better feeling than beating a video game. Some titles require hours, days and weeks of your time to finally overcome the final boss and defeat the campaign. Can you think of that one super hard level you spent so many tries before eventually winning? It’s all worth it once you see the final credits roll. The triumph you experience provides a sense of accomplishment you’ll take with you for the rest of your life.

Ensure a Video Game Benefits You

While video games are beneficial, it’s important to remember they have their limitations. Keep your screen time to just a few hours a day, and remember to balance your games with outside time, household chores and the relationships in your life. Maintaining a balance lets video games benefit you to the maximum.

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