We hear all the time about how video games are making our children ill. They’re unhealthy and things to be avoided. We need to limit our time playing them to a bare minimum.
While there are some negatives to playing video games—there’s no denying that they stop us from getting outside! —there are also some benefits. Surprisingly, playing video games can help our physical, mental, and emotional health. We improve in ways that we never expected, whether we’re playing World of Warcraft with our friends, playing Call of Duty alone, or even pulling out the Wii Fit.
Let’s look at all the surprising ways that playing videos games is helping our health. Just what type of benefits are we seeing? Here’s a look at 12 surprising health benefits of playing video games.
Just a Note of Caution
Before we do get into this list of surprising health benefits, this isn’t an excuse to spend all day, every day on the games. I still believe in moderation and limitation.
Similarly, to eating chocolate and junk food, it’s a case of doing everything in moderation. That means you still need to get outside and take part in other physical activity. Some of the social benefits do not beat the benefits of physically meeting up with friends.
In moderation, you will find that you can take advantage of the benefits. While we have an Xbox in the house, playing time is limited to weekends. This helps to keep the focus on family time during the week but still allow some fun and online gaming for a few hours a week to gain the benefits.
There is the Ability to Overcome Dyslexia
If you suffer from dyslexia, there is some excellent news. Video gaming has shown some benefits in overcoming the mental disability. While researchers don’t fully understand dyslexia and why it only affects some people, there are some theories, and there’s no denying the results of the studies.
One of the theories is that attention problems lead to dyslexia. The benefit of computer games is that they force you to concentrate for long periods of time. Chances are you won’t even realize that you’re concentrating for these long periods of time.
The games are full of changing sceneries. You must read instructions that pop up, with often voices speaking the text that shows up. There are instructions that you need to follow and missions that you need to complete. This isn’t just in the military games like Call of Duty and Gears of War, either. Some of the more child-friendly games like Disney’s Infinity and Skylander involve missions to complete and ever changing and growing sceneries.
You must focus so intently that your brain changes the way that it is made up. There are still studies to understand this benefit further.
Your Vision May Improve
This seems to be completely opposite to the old belief that if you sat too close to the computer or TV, then your vision would be negatively affected. Well, you’re not actually going to sit that close to the TV with most computer games now, since the cords for the controllers are much longer. We’re able to sit on the opposite side of the room.
Other studies have shown that computer gaming can improve your vision. You’re forced to look for details on the screen and distinguish between different shades of the same color. This ability becomes useful in the real world, as you will find it easier to distinguish betweencolors when you’re walking. You’ll notice smaller details.
At the same time, people with lazy eyes have shown improvement. This was in studies where the good eye was covered, so the gamer was forced to view through the lazy eye. Remember that the eyes are surrounding by muscles. By strengthening the muscles, the lazy eye issue was corrected somewhat to the point where it was no longer a problem.
You Can Become More Physical
Computer games have come a long way since they were first invented. At one time, they involved children and adults sitting for hours at a time to complete missions and get to the end of the game. I remember when you had to sit for hours to complete levels because there was no save function—I’m still not past Level 8.2 of the original Mario!
Now, computer games involve a physical aspect. There is Just Dance, the Wii Fit, Guitar Hero and more. They involve you standing and dancing around the room. You can build your muscles, improve posture, and focus on weight loss.
And you can still become more physically active even if you don’t use these types of games. Children who play sports games are more likely to become interested in those sports outside of the home. They join teams or practice the skills they see in the game in real life. Some will play with their friends and others will develop the skills on their own.
Parents can help by encouraging their children to get out more. Find out what games they’re interested in and develop a way to help them take the game and play outside.
There Are Creativity Benefits
Creativity does lead to health benefits, and video games certainly develop creativity. This applies to all types of games.
Let’s start with the military and shooting games. You need to get through the missions, figure out where to go, and learn all about the different weapons. You sometimes need to figure out creative ways to beat the bad guys, especially on the harder levels.
With sports games, you sometimes need to get to a level a little differently to normal. Or you will come up with new tricks on the snowboard or skateboard.
And then there are the creation games like Minecraft and the Sims. You get to create families, build houses, and create worlds. You’ll soon develop universes and create characters that had never existed before. You get to tell a story through the games, which develops with each round that you play.
The creativity passes through to your abilities in life. You start to find a new way to handle situations in real life, and you will become far more valuable at work. There’s a better job satisfaction, which will help to boost your mental health. There is even the ability to escape the rat race and create your own business to support your family yourself with more financial freedom.
Improve the Memory and Other Cognitive Abilities
We hear all the time about how we need to keep our brains working to keep the function at the highest level. While many of us focus on crosswords and Sudoku puzzles, there’s no denying that computer games may be able to help. Just think about the amount that your brain must do while you’re playing the games.
Over time, you will start to recognize patterns in the games, and you need to remember missions, characters, what various items in the games do, and much more. While you’re looking for creative ways to get through the stages, you will keep the brain ticking.
There are also games created specifically to help train the brain. The Wii Fit has a game that makes you do math problems, hitting balls to answer the questions by moving your hips. You’re working physically and mentally at the same time. There are others where you will need to perform memory tasks, or you’ll be asked to answer other questions.
Your memory and other cognitive abilities are boosted. You’ll also feel good about yourself as your memory improves and you beat your high scores. So, while you get a boost of serotonin, you’ll also get a boost of cells. Your hippocampus grows, and you’re at a lower risk for developing the likes of Alzheimer’s and dementia in later life.
Yes, you really can fight off the aging process through gaming. The next time someone tells you to get off the game, point out that you’re just protecting your mental aging process.
Take Your Attention Off the Pain You Feel
While sitting down for too long can cause some discomfort, and you may develop repetitive strain injuries in your wrists from the controllers, video gaming can help to reduce the amount of pain that you feel.
The benefit is while you’re playing the video games, you’re taking your mind off the pain that you feel. Your focus is on the game—something that you’re enjoying. You’ll forget the pain that was there.
I can guarantee that this works. I still remember as a child when I had a stomach ache on the way to a friend’s house. We only played a couple of video games, but I completely forgot about the stomach pain!
While playing the video games, you’re also releasing endorphins, the painkiller hormone. You’re boosting the body’s natural ability to get rid of the pain that you feel.
The next time you feel some pain, sit on the couch and play a level of your favorite game for 20 minutes or so. You’ll soon find that pain reduces because you’re not thinking about it.
Improve Your Social Skills and Build Connections
You’ll find your social skills improve while you’re playing games. Most units now can connect online and chat to other people who are playing the games. Some of the chats are live and through headsets, while others are through forums connected to the games.
You get to know other people and build connections in life. Everyone celebrates together, and there’s a feeling of belonging.
There’s also the ability to improve your social skills while under pressure. You may need to set out orders to your team members while playing a co-op shooting game while under fire from the enemy. There’s a stress aspect, and you need to make aclear and concise communication to let people know where you are and what you need them to do.
You’ll find that communication in the office will be much easier. Communication with your family will be improved, especially when you feel under pressure or stressed. You’ll feel more positive about your skills and will find networking much easier.
Forge Deeper Friendships with People
Humans needs interaction and socialization. We may say that we like to be on our own, but isolation leads to negative feelings. The more isolated we feel, the more we end up struggling with depression and anxiety.
Playing video games helps to forge deeper friendships. Remember there is that ability to develop connections and network with people. You connect with people who have similar interests. You may not be in the same town or even the same country, but you find people who are very much like you. While you may never meet up in person, there are individuals who you can turn to online when you have a problem.
This feeling of being accepted for who you are is important. You start to feel like you can open and you will find it easier to forge friendships elsewhere.
With video gaming comes conventions and meet and greets. You get to meet others interested in the same things in person. You can go to them with friends and find other things that you have in common.
Studies have shown that this can also help those with autism. There is the ability to forge some social interaction without the extra pressure. You all communicate through achievements, and everyone feels like they belong.
Make Faster Decisions to Improve Your Life
You must think fast with some of the video games. You need to decide the paths to take, the missions to do, and the actions to perform to get tasks done. All these require decision-making skills.
This isn’t necessarily about learning how to make the right decision. It’s about learning how to decide. Being indecisive can affect your mental and physical health. You take risks where you wouldn’t necessarily need to or find that you stall in your job and that affects your mental health. Your friends don’t include you in plans because of your lack of decision making, so you end up feeling left out.
Playing video games means that you must make decisions now and then. These don’t always have to be right, but it’s about standing behind those decisions and making them in a split second. You need to act calmly under pressure and get through to the next stage.
You’ll soon find that those new skills will benefit you in real life. Feel good about yourself and progress with friends and in work.
This will also help to improve your cognitive and memory abilities, connecting us to the health benefit above. Faster decisions mean you recall memories better and improve the rate of cell growth and repair.
Curb Your Food Cravings to Keep Your Weight Down
How often have you wanted to snack when you’re playing video games? We see all those movies and TV shows where there’s a gamer surrounding by chips and pop, but can you honestly say that that is you?
When you’re playing a game, your focus is on what’s on screen. Your hands are busy with the controller. You don’t have the time to pick up food and eat it. You’ll be lucky if you get a drink in now and then!
Plus, your mind is completely off the thought of snacks. It’s busy.
Most snacking and cravings are due to emotions. We’re bored or stressed, so we reach for something to keep us busy. Well, we’re already solving that issue with the computer games. To top it off, we feel good about playing because we’re having fun, so we don’t want to snack.
Curbing cravings will help you lose weight. You focus on healthy eating, and you can reduce the health problems associated with obesity. Missing sugar isn’t something that you experience anymore, so you don’t feel like you’re on a diet and feel great about yourself.
Keep Stress to a Minimum
We all have stress for some reason or another. Some of us have high-stress jobs, while finances or the home life is a problem for others. It’s how we handle the stress that affects our health. Video gaming can help to keep the stress levels to a minimum naturally in a variety of ways.
Let’s first consider the benefit of taking our mind off things. We become so engrossed in the games that we forget about the reasons for the stress. If you struggle on a night with stress and poor sleep, you could find that a bit of video gaming helps. It will help you unwind from a long day, and you focus purely on the missions in front of you.
While you’re not getting rid of the reason for the stress, you’re stopping it taking over your life. You still want to reduce the reasons, but you stand a better chance when you have an outlet.
At the same time, you’re improving your decision making, creative abilities, and overcoming some other mental health problems. You’ll find easier ways to overcome the reasons for the stress, helping you to battle the problems head on. There’s no need for you to manage the symptoms because the symptoms stop appearing.
When work throws a project at you at the last minute, it won’t send you into a panic. You’ll step into your video gaming mode and treat it as a mission. You’ll work out a plan of attack, delegate to others, and make those snap decisions that will see the mission complete. Your boss will appreciate you for this.
If you’re struggling with finances, you’ll look at the steps that you can take to improve your situation. You’ll sit down with a plan to tackle it, instead of letting the stress take over your life.
And then there’s the ability to release more happy hormones when you’re playing games. More happy hormones mean fewer stress hormones in your body. Your mental state will be improved, keeping the physical downsides of stress at bay.
Gamers are Better Surgeons
The final surprising health benefit is for those who are training or have become surgeons. One of the biggest benefits is that you’ll be able to do more intricate surgeries without as many errors. This has been noted in studies!
When you play video games, your hands are always working. You must look at the details on the screen, make quick decisions, and keep the stress levels down. You must work within small spaces while controlling the accuracy on your targets.
Surgeons must work in small spaces, and there is no room for error at times. Wouldn’t you prefer a surgeon who is confident with their hands because of computer games?
It’s Time to Play More Video Games
You have all the reasons in the world to play more video games daily. Yes, they are surprisingly good for you but only in moderation. Spend 20-30 minutes a day at the end of the day playing the games. Think about the types of games you play and the things you do around the game playing to make sure you’re living the healthiest life possible.
Children are more likely to socialize, and they do still get outside. As a parent, you can encourage this. You’re not banning all computer games but encouraging other forms of activity and socializing. You’re helping to develop a full-rounded individual.
There’s no denying that there are some skills and cognitive benefits to gaming. You’ll improve your memory and decision-making skills, making it so much easier to tackle stress and problems in the home and workplace.
Include some gaming as part of your weekly routine. We stick to the weekend, but you could opt for a few minutes at the end of a hard work day. Think about the different types of games, including building and physical games to improve the whole health while playing.