Health has been a hot topic in America for the past few years. Children’s health has become the focus of many campaigns such as the Let’s Move! campaign, introduced by Michelle Obama in 2010. For parents and many others, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle has become a priority.
Making healthier choices can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to change everything in your existing routine. You also don’t have to cut out the things you enjoy, even if they aren’t exactly healthy. The key is balance.
As the all-fabulous health guru of Kingdom Games, I spend a lot of time around gamers who also want to be sure they’re making healthy lifestyle choices—a sentiment that many parents of young gamers also hold for their kids. The instinct is often to put down game controllers in exchange for gym badges, but we don’t have to cut out our beloved video games entirely.
Here are different ways to use video games as a compliment an active and health-considerate lifestyle.
Exercise your Brain – Turn TV time into Game time.
Your brain gets stronger the more you use it, and although it might not be a muscle it does benefit from exercise. Video games present obstacles that often need to be overcome in a short amount of time, and
studies found that this helps strengthen parts of our brain that handle decision making, quicker thinking, better memory, and more.
Mobile games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope inspire creative thinking in order to problem solve, while First-person games like Halo or Destiny help improve hand-eye coordination and visual and situational awareness. Simulation and strategy games improve players’ planning and resource management skills, while RPG games exercise players’ ability to respond to challenges to reach long and short term goals. Online multiplayer gaming, which exists on nearly all platforms, promotes teamwork and cooperative problem solving.
Games may not require physical activity, but they keep your mind active and your brain sharp. Consider replacing the time spent in front of the television with gaming time instead. Or divvy up the time between the two more evenly. That way, whatever time is allotted for relaxing on the couch can also be spent exercising those reflexive and critical thinking skills.
Start Simple – Do what you can with your existing schedule.
Improving physical health often raises questions like, ‘Should I join a gym?’, ‘How much time in my day should I spend exercising?’. These considerations can get overwhelming, especially if there just isn’t that much wiggle room in the schedule.
Do what you can in the beginning. Nobody expects anybody to become a workout master overnight. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 30 mins of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week for adults. That’s a good starting point, and this level of fitness isn’t too hard to incorporate into your already existing schedule.
Try adding this physical activity to your gaming sessions by tying it to game performance: 10 sit-ups for every point or life lost; 10 pushups for every rank you fall below 1st place in a race. Motivators like these will not only encourage you to strive for better performance in-game, but will also counteract that post-gaming guilt from sitting stationary in a chair for a chunk of time.
Alternatively, you can instead pop in a game that requires physical motion to play. If you’ve ever seen or played Dance Dance Revolution or Just Dance, you know the leg and core workout that awaits. These games’ soundtracks make it easy to get into a groove, especially since they don’t usually need a handheld controller. Go at it solo, or invite friends over to challenge your smooth moves. See if you’re not already sweating after dancing three songs in a row.
The AHA has recommendations about minimum exercise for children too, so gaming families can use these tactics to add a little bit of exercise to family game time. Set gameplay rules similar to the ones above, or apply those rules to teams and turn things into a fun family competition. It’s a great way to add some exercise into your lifestyle without making major changes to your routine.
Get up, and Get out!
If you’re more of the get-out-of-the-house type, GPS based mobile games will get you out of your seat and adventuring into the city around you. Zombies, Run! is a great game for taking a jog around the block. Bring your headphones: the game will tell you when you’re being chased by zombies, and you’ll need to speed up to escape them. You’ll be so focused on escaping the monsters behind you that you’ll knock out a few running laps without even realizing it.
Ingress is a multiplayer mobile game that brings gaming to your real-world environment. The game’s portals are real-world landmarks in your area, and your faction aims to defend them while also attacking the enemy’s. Use the game to create a personal workout: map a route based on portal locations that you can jog three times a week. Since success in this game requires continued guard of portals just as much as the capture of portals, your frequent laps around the area help do your part in winning the battle while also incorporating a little outdoor activity in your schedule.
Although Ingress is an online multiplayer game, it doesn’t require direct teamwork or cooperation. You might spot other players on your trail, but the choice to engage is up to you. But exercising with others does have its benefits, and Ingress is a great way to work out while joining in on a city-wide game of king of the hill.
You don’t need to become a Gym Master. Video Games are sedentary in nature, and getting healthy does require some dedication to physical activity, but games don’t have to fall completely to the wayside in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Fellow gamers and parents of gamers can utilize games as a motivator and compliment to established health goals.
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