A Guide To Healthy Gaming
Wed 19th Apr 2017 - 1:16pm
Firstly, I would like to say thank you to all of the volunteers who helped me through this, as this is a highly scientific topic with many things to be wrong about. The most important figure in the making of this article has been Matt Hwu, the creator of 1HP and "the Head of Physical Performance and eSports Medicine for CLG", closely followed by Cole Ricke and Redditors donutmesswithme as well as SwedishSanta.
Secondly, I am not a professional. You should read this article with a healthy amount of skepticism and research things you are unsure about. It is just a few clicks for your health, go for it!
Health is a big topic nowadays, with actually living healthy being easier than ever before, and with S1mple having health problems it has become obvious that being healthy actually is really important for all kinds of gamers, professional or not. In this article, we will discuss the questions, "What being healthy means?", "Why should you be healthy?", and answer the question "How can you be healthy?"
What does being healthy actually mean?
Health is not one dimensional. What I mean with that is that there are a lot of areas in your life where you need to live healthy in order to actually be healthy in the long run, like your diet, exercise and posture. We will talk about the most important areas of health in order to give you a good oversight of this topic without diving too deep into a highly complicated matter.
Why should you be healthy?
There are a lot of benefits from being healthy. The first thing that comes to mind, that is directly related to most video games and especially First-Person-Shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, is the health-reaction time correlation. If you live healthily, you will reach further into your fullest potential. Granted, these differences will only be around 10 ms at first, but even that much can decide over success and failure in the long run. You will also be able to have a higher standard of living, which will directly affect your standard of gaming and comfort while gaming, as well as the longevity of your career. You should keep in mind that, when we talk about being healthy, we're talking about being strain-free as well as being as pain-free.
(Only being healthy allows Jim to survive in the harshest environments, like Austria)
How do I eat healthily?
It can be quite hard to stay on a purely healthy diet. This has to do with the fact that, in order to actually eat healthily, you need to take care of multiple things, like portion control, the composition of meals, time of the meals and the freshness of the ingredients. We will not cover the full spectrum of eating like a professional athlete would, but rather general guidelines that will help you improve your eating habits, but can still raise your life quality tremendously.
What and how am I supposed to eat?
There always are multiple qualified people saying completely different things about what to eat. People are still split about the worth of eggs and meat in a healthy diet, so we will not be going too deep into the matter and will only present the most general consensus among professionals.
A good start would be to look at an eating pyramid from a trustworthy source, like nutritionaustralia.org, and compare those components with things you have incorporated into your diet.
(Image courtesy of nutritionaustralia.org)
A good rule of thumb would be to pick one piece of every group and incorporate it into your meal in relation to its group size represented in this pyramid, or to incorporate pieces of each group throughout your day into your meals, like starting with bread, cheese and fruit in the morning and eating a bit of meat with vegetables at lunch. While almost no popular snacks and products for indulgence purposes are present, like chocolate and crisps, it is hinted that you are supposed to limit salt and added sugar in order to keep your diet healthy. If you really feel like you need a snack, limit it to a fist size per snack and limit the number of snacks you have a day.
Now, I know that this is a bit much for people who have had a rather unhealthy diet before. You wake up with your sugary cereal soaked with milk, you eat a Hamburger for lunch and go to bed after eating a noodle meal in the afternoon. There are a lot of snacks and unnecessary products between those meals, like energy drinks, coffee and all kinds of sweets. It will be hard to turn down those alluring products and meals, but keep in mind that you are not supposed to strip yourself of every sin and become a health nut. You can start small: Eating one apple a week is still always better than eating absolutely no fruit at all. Maybe start there and then add a banana to have two fruits a week. Maybe exchange your coffee for tea without much sugar or replace it with water or a low-sugar juice. Start substituting meat with vegetables, if you are able to, in order to be sure to not to consume too much meat. Even with baby steps, you will still live a healthier life and chances are that you will feel the full effect of the changes after just one or two weeks of a bit of discipline, which will soon become a habit. Be careful though! Some people tend to overcompensate when they substitute one unhealthy part of their diet with a more healthy one, which causes them to nullify every effect they tried to summon. You cannot start eating more candy just because you added one apple to your weekly diet! Keep in mind that this is a dangerous path, and always reflect upon your choices. You also should not force change too fast, as people of all kinds tend to get frustrated when they change their diet.
Gaining, and maintaining, a good posture
Even though there are multiple qualified people speaking of multiple solutions for this problem, I chose to trust 1HP on this one, as they presented a good consensus among other professional sources. Also, there is no perfect posture. Spending too much time in one position will harm you, one way or another. One joint or part of your body will always have to suffer if you sit for too long in one position. But before getting into how to prevent pain and injuries, let us first look at what a good, but not perfect because there is no perfect, posture can look like.
(For better readability please visit this link)
In general, keeping things neutral and in a natural state is important: Do not force your neck forward, do not bend your back or straighten it too much, keep your limbs neutral and parallel. Do not let your hands hang in the air for too long, as this can cause cramps and unnatural positions for your wrist. Also, as is said in this picture, time is the most dangerous factor when you sit while gaming. Even if you follow every piece of advice from this article and the picture, you will eventually feel like your position is unnatural or even painful. To fight this, you should get up after every game or practice session in order to stretch, maybe take a walk with your dog or play with your cat. You could lay down on your bed for a few seconds to adjust your body, or do some sit-ups and relax afterwards.
A good posture is really important for your body. We all sit too long, no doubt about it, but it is time to get up and do something about it. It is not even inconvenient, especially if you have ever felt pain from sitting for too long. You will soon realise that these simple tricks, like getting up and stretching for just a few minutes, maybe getting the fist-sized snack from the kitchen, will help your body, your happiness and therefore you.
How do I keep my joints healthy?
Firstly, there are a lot of different kinds of pain and injuries, the most famous being the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Such injuries can limit your fun at gaming, while also shortening your career. In order to keep joints like your wrists healthy, you will need to follow the advice from the paragraph about good posture in order to make sure that no false sitting will doom you even before you began to work on your joints' health. Now, in order to prevent injuries and pains in your joints, you will need to make sure that you do not keep them in unnatural positions for too long; Do not bend them too steep, do not clutch your mouse like a maniac and do not play at an awkward angle. Clutching things too hard can lead to cramps, and bending your joints into an awkward angle can summon pain and injuries. We all go into awkward positions and unnatural states from time to time, and it is important to work against these threats. You can do so by stretching your arms and hands, as well as wrists. There are multiple tutorials and pictures on the internet from qualified people who are showing such stretches. 1HP also has made a video about this. Keep in mind that pains in the arm and wrist are often only produced by repetitive strain from keeping your hands or arms in an unnatural position. In order to fight this, you need to do these shown stretches, and take longer breaks between games or practice sessions. If the pain persists for more than four or five days, it may be time to see a professional. Injuries from gaming can get worse and worse, and limit your quality of life too much for you to risk it.
Exercising for your in-game abilities
It has been found that physical exercise can increase your cognitive abilities. Cognitive abilities span over a variety of things, like your attention, perception, motor skills (important for your aim!) and visual as well as spatial processing. This means that exercising will help you become better at any video game! This, of course, is not a magical spell that you cast and you magically become a pro, but it will help you reach a good amount of your potential faster and raise said potential. It will help you focus, help you develop skill faster and keep it at a high level and will help you at analysing anything, from current in-game situations to pro strategies you saw in a pro match. Be aware that, according to this article, the cognitive improvement follows an inverted U-shape, which means that a medium amount of exercise is better than an athlete like exercise, at least for your cognitive abilities.
Be careful, there always is a "too much" for everything. Yes, you can eat too much fruit, you can work out too much and you can stretch too much. You should not overdo any aspect mentioned in this. You also have to keep in mind that your body's state is a direct result of what you eat and how you feel, which in return will result in a different feeling about yourself and your body. In order to reach your peak potential, you should work on every aspect mentioned in this article. It is better to be comfortable with a slightly healthier life than before than to go too far and be uncomfortable in your skin and with your life. Taking small steps will probably get you further than taking big leaps, at least for the average Joe. Overestimating your abilities may be as bad as not doing anything at all, and as already mentioned, even the slightest change for the better is worth their weight in gold. Take advantage of small opportunities, like walking the dog on a break to get fresh air, doing some cardio on a day where you cannot play and so on.
Also, cheat meals are okay. Just do not overdo it.
Again, special thanks to Matt Hwu from 1HP. Without him, this article would not be.
Sources, in no particular order:
Thosar, Saurabh S., Sylvanna L. Bielko, Kieren J. Mather, Jeanne D. Johnston, and Janet P. Wallace. “Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 47.4 (2015): 843-49.
Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience Nat Rev Neurosci 9.7 (2008): 568-78.
Rice-Evans, Catherine. “Flavonoid Antioxidants.” CMC Current Medicinal Chemistry 8.7 (2001): 797-807.