Play Games & Stay Fit

You can be a gamer and you can be into fitness, if you know how to find the balance between the two. More than that, one can complement the other quiet beautifully once integrated, there has been plenty of gamification in fitness and plenty of fitness in gaming in recent years. The two have a lot more in common than meets the eye: in both worlds we upgrade and level up our characters; we meet the targets and work hard for our gains. Both, essentially do the same thing, both have similar rules and both require you to spend time, and effort to improve your skill if you ever want to get better at it, better in the game of life, whether actual or digital. 

Video games have been blamed for rapidly climbing obesity rates. They’ve been demonized and given more and more of a bad rep. Yet, they have never really been at the core of the problem which is slowly killing us all. The problem that isn’t about what we do, but about what we don’t do: move. A sedentary lifestyle is to blame for our bad health, our extra fat reserves and declining life expectancy, that and snacking. We eat more and we move less, that’s not really rocket science and hardly a surprise to anyone. 

Now, it is easy to gang up on video games since at first glance they don’t seem to achieve anything, all of our achievements in the digital world count for naught and make no evident impact on our actual life which, incidentally, is the only we have one – there is no back up or respawn after that. So video games do seem like a waste of everyone’s time. Yet, they are very far from worthless. 

Although it’s not a very well researched subject, we already know some of the key benefits of gaming such as improved learning abilities, cognitive skills and better coordinated motor function.  Playing video games improves our moods and resets our brains as well as helping to practice our memory.  Technically, gaming is so beneficial it should be prescribed (actually, it is). In some cases games are used to help sufferers manage chronic pain and they’re often used to help cancer patients and people who suffer from PTSD. The whole world is taken up with gamification and it’s not a bad thing either, it only becomes bad when you completely detach yourself from reality, lock the doors and lose the keys. And this is where fitness comes in.

In the latest GTA V game, for example, fitness is encouraged and requested as an attribute in a large number of quests. In order to improve your character you also need to make him exercise, run, cycle and swim. If you get fitter, you get faster and stronger and you’ll get to be better in the game. Other games, like Sims 3 have adopted the same concept, the fitter you are – the better you are at life. The future generation will learn this through the gaming process, the more effort you put in yourself, the more XP you get and the easier it’ll become to succeed, in the game and in life. You upgrade and level up. From a neurobiochemical point of view the processes taking place inside our heads, in the gaming world are identical to those happening in the real world. First you learn to be analytical, task and goal orientated and organized in the game and then you do it in real life. 

If you are a gamer and you want to get in shape, there are ways you can do it without leaving the game, exercising between re-spawns and re-loads or constructions. Another very useful tip is to completely take snacks out of the equation. That alone will make a drastic difference. There is a study that showed that when we don’t practice mindful eating and we are preoccupied with something else like a video game or a movie even, our brain doesn’t register up to 50% of what we have eaten. So we end up eating twice as much that what we’d eat if we were paying attention to your food instead.

Staying active and staying on our feet is something we must remember to do, and it doesn’t just concern those of us who indulge in gaming, but also everyone who spends long hours in front of a screen. Getting out there, walking or running, or just working through a list of exercises daily is crucial to maintaining our quality of life and staying healthy. Gaming isn’t evil, it just has to be compensated for with moderate exercise to benefit you. 

If you hit a mental wall and you struggle to get things done, a quick game is an ideal solution. And once you are at it, why not also do a few squats and lunges while the game loads? This is a great way to “pay” for your play time, too. Since there has to be a balance and everything has to be balanced out, make a price list for your gaming time and pay in exercise. Similarly, instead of taking a video game away from your kid, give him a list of points, which will help him or her earn play time. And so it doesn’t feel like punishment, introduce gamification to it with level ups and upgrades and ways to unlock prices. 

Fitness and gaming, the two have managed to gain more and more ground in our day to day lives. The two used to be at odds with each other in the past as they used to promote two completely different things. It is all changing now and it is good to see more gamers turning to fitness and more people turning to games as well as physical exercise, because to be honest, at the end of the day, they both do the same thing – they enrich your life and make it better, they make it more fun and certainly a lot more enjoyable so neither should be ignored. What is life if not a quest?