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5 Tips for Healthy Gaming

Being a healthier gamer is easier than you think.

A little over a year ago, I earned myself a trip to the hospital for an elevated heart rate. We’re talking in the 120 beats per minute range while I was just sitting down. At 34 years old, that’s just not supposed to happen. I spent several hours having my blood checked and going through tests, only to find out that everything was fine. The doctor asked me how much caffeine I’d consumed over the past 24 hours, and idiotic me suddenly realized where I messed up.

I don’t recall exactly how much caffeine I’d had, but it was somewhere in the four cups of coffee range with an energy drink added for good measure. All of this was consumed while sitting at my desk, working and playing video games, which are sometimes the same thing. At the time—and to this day—I could easily spend 12 hours sitting at a desk and staring at screens each day. That’s a lot, and what’s worse is that I wasn’t paying any attention to what this was doing to my body.

Ever since then I’ve thought about how to approach healthy gaming. From staying out of the hospital due to an elevated heart rate, to making sure I’m not getting headaches and my eyes aren’t watering.

The tips below are just from my personal experience. I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, physical trainer or any other health professional. I’m not trying to tell you to do these things. I’m trying to get you to pause for a moment and think about how you can be healthier while you’re gaming or sitting at a desk all day. And, if you do decide to take some steps to become a healthier gamer, consult with a professional who can give you advice on how to do that appropriately.

Reduce Eye Strain

If this is you, it's probably time to look away from the screen.
If this is you, it's probably time to look away from the screen.

One of the things that I deal with frequently while staring at monitors all day are watering eyes. I tend to blink less while looking at a screen, and this causes my eyes to dry out, then water. One of the things I’ve read repeatedly online is to take frequent breaks from staring at your monitor, phone or television. Look away for about 30 seconds, focusing on various objects at varying distances.

Move Around

Amanda from Grand Theft Auto V has the right idea.
Amanda from Grand Theft Auto V has the right idea.

This one is key for me. Sitting at a desk all day has led to poor circulation, which—when combined with a butt load of caffeine—is part of what landed me in the hospital. Now, every half hour or so I make sure that I stand up, walk around, and let my legs get some exercise. Make them work and get the blood flowing again. It could be switching the laundry, making the bed, brushing my teeth… it doesn’t matter. The point is I make the effort to stand up and move around a bit at least once per hour.

Eat Healthy Snacks

You're probably going to eat while gaming. At least try to make it something healthy.
You're probably going to eat while gaming. At least try to make it something healthy.

You could insert this tip into anything in life and it would make sense. How you approach it is up to you, but since I work from home and the desk is where I spend most my waking hours, I’ve started having a protein shake as one of my meals in a day. Before, I’d look up at seven or eight in the evening and realize I hadn’t eaten that day, which is horrible for you. Now, I’m having several small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day. Do some digging of your own for ideas on what you can eat while gaming.

Go for a Walk

Advanced technique. Actually leave the house and go for a walk outside.
Advanced technique. Actually leave the house and go for a walk outside.

I considered grouping this with moving around, but going for a walk is a bit different from that. For me, going for a walk might mean doing 20 minutes on the stairs of my building, or walking to the store to grab milk or cat treats (angry cats are unhealthy for you, so say my cats). If you go outside, you’re killing several birds with one stone. You’re helping your circulation, giving your eyes a break from staring at screens, and you’re getting some fresh air, which is never a bad thing.

Stay Hydrated

I've replaced soda, energy drinks and most of my coffee with water.
I've replaced soda, energy drinks and most of my coffee with water.

Going back to my caffeine story that landed me in the hospital, I hadn’t consumed any water that day. Sure, there is some water in coffee, but I hadn’t had a glass of water. This—along with straining my eyes­—can cause me to get some bad headaches. Today, I still have a cup of coffee in the morning, but I’m also making sure that I’m drinking two or three large glasses of water while I work. I also haven’t had a single energy drink since my hospital visit, and guess what… my heart hasn’t been beating 120 times per minute!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a gamer, or at least someone who sits in front of a screen for a large chunk of their day. That has an impact on your health. We can debate how, or what to do to fix that, but at the end of the day we can all do better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go walk around.

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Bill Lavoy

If I'm not playing or writing about video games, I'm probably watching hockey. Stereotypical Canadian who loves his poutine.