ESports and exercise: a perfect pairing for the serious gamer?

ESports-exercise

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Are you a gamer? If so, heed this incredibly valuable piece of information: Physical training is good for you. It’s good for every part of you.

Now, a piece of advice to go with it: You should be exercising, and you should be doing it regularly.

Without getting needlessly specific, it’s justifiable to say that partaking in regular moderate to intense physical activity does wonders for your overall health, no matter who you are or what you do with your time. It also helps you to live longer, which is a nice bonus.

But is it good for your gaming ability?

. . .It sure is. Another nice bonus.

While performing competitively in Esports might not be akin to running marathons when it comes to the physical demands involved, gaming is a far stretch from sitting at rest. Most people know that ESports are mentally challenging, but it’s a lesser-understood fact that they are also extremely physically demanding. In fact, a study from the German Sport University showed that professional ESports athletes experienced physical strains similar in intensity to “normal” athletes.

All athletes benefit from regular training that prepares them to meet the physical demands they will face at competition time. Without proper preparation, injury, burnout, or suboptimal performance are the most likely outcomes. ESports athletes are no exception to the rule.

Introducing a solid exercise program to your routine won’t just help you play your best game, either—it’ll help you to keep playing it. With proper exercise training and nutrition, Professor Ingo Fobrose, the GSU study lead, believes that many Esports athletes could extend their careers by four or five years.

How does exercise help my game?

Exercising induces some pretty incredible physical and mental adaptations. Many of these adaptations translate to noticeable improvements in cognitive and physical ability. These improvements then translate into better gameplay potential. Think of the straight line below. It’s one I suggest every avid gamer should follow:

Regular exercise -> Physical & cognitive improvements -> Healthier, more capable gamer.

Regular exercise improves gameplay in two major ways—by improving physical and mental endurance through increased energy levels, and by increasing overall cognitive function.

Energy

Every time you move, whether it be running track or moving the mouse, you’re relying on tiny cell organelles called mitochondria to supply the energy necessary for movement. Mitochondria are the power-houses of the cell; they convert chemical energy from the food you eat into energy that can be used. Regular exercise increases mitochondrial density, making your body better able to produce energy. Oh yeah, your brain too.

And guess what? With more energy comes better physical and mental endurance, both of which are crucial to succeeding during long stints of gaming time. When you can keep moving freely and keep your concentration for longer than the players you’re up against, you gain a vital competitive edge.

Improved cognitive function

Resistance training and aerobic exercise have both been proven to improve cognitive function, compared to those who don’t exercise regularly. Working memory, reaction time, and other markers of general cognitive performance are all improved by physical activity.

It’s no secret in the ESports world that you have to be very sharp and very quick-thinking to stand a chance during truly competitive gameplay. In science speak, you need strong cognitive ability. How do you get it?

Practice, proper nutrition, good sleep, and—you guessed it—regular exercise.

How much exercise should I be doing?

The jury is still out on exactly how much exercise ESports athletes require for optimum performance. Like ESports itself, exercise science is constantly evolving. For now, all gamers would do well to follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines on physical activity, provided below for your convenience:

  • Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

A note on stretching

Have you ever found yourself wanting to put a few more hours of game practice in, only to be hindered by a niggling pain somewhere in your body? Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end is what gamers do; there’s no way around it. Unfortunately, this kind of activity puts a huge strain on the muscles of the neck, back, and shoulders. Fortunately, however, this is where stretching comes in to save the day.

Stretching is exercise’s oft-forgotten brother. He may be overlooked, but he’s got a lot to give. Stretching reduces tension in muscles, provides better range of motion, promotes better circulation, and improves flexibility. It can also lead to increased energy levels.

General recommendations are to perform a slow stretch of each muscle group, holding for at least 30 seconds at a time. It is important to be warmed up before performing a full stretching routine. This is because warming up with a few minutes of moderate activity increases the temperature of the muscles, making them more elastic. Stretching after a workout is best practice. Gamers may benefit further by taking a few minutes out to move around and stretch lightly after every few hours of practice. This is particularly important when they begin to feel an uncomfortable stiffness in their muscles.

Take-home message

By following the WHO’s guidelines on minimum physical activity for healthy adults, you’ll be giving your body and mind the chance to adapt and improve in so many ways. You might well find your game being carried along with them. So get out and move. And, oh yeah, don’t forget to stretch afterwards.

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