Physical Training Through Gaming

Gaming can be a great way to relieve stress. But it is important to find healthy ways to manage your stress in order to keep your body and mind in top shape.

Exercise is a well-known stress reliever and it can improve your gaming performance. Fitness-gaming, which combines exercise with video games, is one new way that you can get moving.

Improves Cognitive Performance

Playing video games in the correct way can improve cognitive performance. Research shows that gamers who exercise regularly experience improvements in their memory, processing speed and alertness. This is because fitness gaming / active gaming activates neurological and physiological mechanisms that boost neurotransmitter availability and increases cerebral circulation. These benefits are seen on various cognitive functions, including visual-spatial attention capacity, pattern recognition, estimation, judgment, hypothesis testing and task-switching ability.

However, playing video games to consciously train these cognitive skills may not be the best strategy. Instead, we recommend playing for fun and allowing the improvements to come naturally through regular game play. Different video games will improve different cognitive skills, so you should try out a variety of options to find the ones that suit you best.

In one study, researchers compared the effects of sedentary video gaming, aerobic exercise (biking), simultaneous video gaming and biking, and control on cognitive function in 40 older adults. They found that the group that performed the interactive physical-cognitive game-based training program showed improved performance on the MoCA cognitive domains of executive function, attention and abstraction after 12 weeks compared to the control group.

This is likely due to the fact that the training program required participants to step as quickly as possible in different directions in response to visual stimuli, such as choice stepping responses in Fruits hunter, Where am I? and Whack a mole. Likewise, improvement in postural sway was probably related to the coordination and balance needed to play Sky fall and Crossing poison river.

Breaks Sedentary Habits

Many people are sedentary for long periods of time due to their jobs or other daily activities. This is problematic because sitting for extended periods of time increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and premature death. The good news is that researchers have found a way to break these sedenary habits through gaming.

Beth Bock, a behavioral scientist at Miriam Hospital who will present her findings at the annual meeting of The Society for Behavioral Medicine, has found that exercise video games, such as the Wii and Xbox Kinect, can help sedentary individuals break out of their seated routines and into physical activity.

The study involved two groups: a control group that continued to play sedentary video games and an active video game intervention group. The active video game intervention included a combination of exercise games, such as dance and balance exercises. The exercise games were fun and engaging, resulting in high levels of participation. The participants were also able to maintain their exercise routines throughout the 10-month study period, which is an important component in promoting lasting behavior change.

Another benefit of the active video game intervention is that it improved the self-reported sedentary behaviors of the participants. Additionally, the intervention group experienced higher energy expenditure (EE) and lower energy intake (EI) than the control group. Although the study was conducted in a laboratory setting, researchers hope to extend these findings to real-world settings, such as offices. This type of research could be instrumental in increasing the number of people who meet national guidelines for aerobic physical activity, which are currently only half of American adults.

Boosts Cardiovascular Health

Playing active video games can have similar physiological effects to exercising on a treadmill. The new generation of gaming systems allowing gamers to be physically active during game play have been dubbed ‘exergaming’ and can be used as a fun way to help people keep their balance, strength and cardiovascular health, especially for those with type 1 diabetes who find it difficult to stick with traditional exercise regimes.

In one study, researchers found that participants using an Xbox 360 and Kinect performed cardiovascular exercises that were as vigorous as jogging at a moderate pace on a treadmill. This was despite the fact that the games were set at their lowest intensity level. Other research has shown that higher-intensity games can be played by the more fitter gamers and may elicit greater increases in heart rate.

The authors of this scoping review argue that while the findings from current research are positive, future research needs to be undertaken to determine whether the use of these types of video games can elicit sustained changes in physical health indicators. These indicators include physical complaints and acute health concerns, as well as lifestyle choices like commitment to regular exercise and nutritious diets.

They also need to examine how this activity affects cognitive performance and other psychological outcomes. Finally, longer-term studies of the cardiovascular and emotional responses to repeated gaming must be conducted.

Increases Muscle Strength

Getting better at video games requires skill, concentration and attention to detail, all of which help develop key muscles in the upper body. In addition, the competition, social interactions and decision making involved in playing gaming have been shown to improve working memory and problem solving.

Researchers compared the effects of video game exercise with traditional group fitness classes on the muscles of college-age men and found that the exergaming participants performed a similar workout to the regular group class, but felt much less tired afterwards. They also reported greater enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, both important factors in exercise adherence.

In a separate study, Pennington Biomedical researchers gave 46 children ages 10-17 who were at risk for obesity or other serious health problems an Xbox 360 and Kinect with four exergames (Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012, Just Dance 3, Disneyland Adventures and Kinect Sports Season 2) and asked them to play the games for six months at home three times a week. The kids in the gaming group met national recommendations of 60 minutes of physical activity each day and, unlike their counterparts in the control group, saw improvements in cholesterol levels that put them back into a healthy range.

The findings of these studies could revolutionize the way people look at video games and the impact that they can have on their lives. With more and more young people becoming addicted to video games, the research suggests that the gaming industry should start focusing on helping gamers stay physically healthy.

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