Today’s modern gamer spends more and more time in front of the screen. Games are more interesting, more exciting, more engaging, and just over all more fun than their predecessors. In addition, the advent of world-wide multi-player gaming makes it possible to play skilled opponents from anywhere in the world at any time of day. It’s entirely possible to spend six, eight, twelve hours, or even a whole day playing a game. A BBC article way back in 2005 even reports of a South Korean man who died after 50 hours of gaming. (1)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about some of the health risks associated with gaming. Chief among them are repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Think manipulating a controller, joy stick, or a keyboard. This type of injury used to be quite common among people who typed frequently: secretaries, data entry staffs, and so on. Nowadays it is the realm of the gamer. To avoid injuring or straining your wrists, try warm-up exercises from Nimblefingers which consists of a series of hand, finger and wrist movements (2). And try to limit extended play time to an hour or two at a time. Take frequent breaks, as well!
Insomnia and Malnourishment
Another health risk is more common in people with gaming addictions who are unable to manage their game time. Gamers have been known to let themselves become malnourished and dehydrated during long or chronic gaming sessions. Extended, sometimes several day-long gaming sessions, can lead to sleep loss and poor diet. Gamers love to snack – fatty, sugary foods give you an energy boost and satisfy cravings. Try to avoid fatty or fried snacks while playing, especially as a go-to. Fruits are a great way to get a sugary treat without overdoing it, and you’ll feel better, too. As for sleep loss, it’s not healthy to do almost anything for more than eight hours at a time. Take a break, get some sleep, and come back to the game when you’ve had a good meal and gotten some sun. Lack of sleep is associated with a host of health problems, including depression, eating disorders, and others.
Physiological Aches and Pains
Lastly, the most common type of health risks associated with gaming are aches and pains! If you spend a large period of time in a single position, it’s quite possible that you will put strain on your neck and back. As most games are played sitting down, this is especially true. The strain can also spread to the eyes, arms, and wrists. Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t necessarily mean your body is resting. Give it, and yourself, a break every half hour or so. Get up, walk around, stretch, and jump a bit to make sure blood is flowing through all your parts. Look up some exercises on-line to help you work out any kinks or pains.
While most health risks associated with gaming are minor, there’s always a chance of developing a chronic condition or taking it too far. With a few breaks, some stretches, and plenty of down-time, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your favorite hobby responsibly.
Lucio Pereira is a gamer and writer at Killerguides.com. Also a sports buff in his spare time, he writes game guides and reviews.