Playing video games has long been associated with poor health due to its sedentary nature and long exposure to digital screens. But Karen Reed suggests that there are many benefits to video games we may not have considered. She addresses all of them in detail in the article 12 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Video Games, featured on Positive Health Wellness.
Even though Reed has some great information to consider, she cautions wisely that these 12 points should be accompanied by a common-sense approach. That means incorporating playing video games into the larger picture of leisure time that's part of overall health and wellness. In short, play smart. From the article:
"... this isn’t an excuse to spend all day, every day on the games. I still believe in moderation and limitation ... 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 ... 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 you have it. Playing video games absolutely can have a place in healthy living, and even productive learning. It doesn't take much. All that it takes is a balance.
12 Health Benefits to Playing Video Games
A summary of Reed's 12 benefits to playing video games is below. We suggest reading her full article for more insights and information.
1. Assists with dyslexia—Researchers aren't fully aware of all the causes of dyslexia, but one theory is that it's caused in part by attention problems. Video games require a strict focus on movement and scenery changes, and quick decisions on how to react to what happens instantaneously and often without warning.
2. Improves vision—Playing video games forces you to scrutinize small on-screen details and movements happening constantly, as well as discerning between different shades of a color.
3. You can be more physical—Video game advancements have come a long way in incorporating physical movement. Just Dance and Wii Fit are great examples of games that give you a workout, improve your posture, and help you lose weight.
4. Creativity development—Video games develop creativity by guiding us to think creatively. From planning our next move to the whole quest or mission, critical and creative thinking applies. This is also certainly the case when it comes to games like Minecraft and The Sims.
5. Improves memory and cognitive functions—It's long been known that playing video games boosts certain cognitive functions and also boosts memory. Processes like pattern recognition, problem-solving, attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, and more all get exercised with video games.
6. Helping with pain—Video games are distractions from personal discomforts of any kind. They require focus and sometimes involve repetitive rhythmic motions that can be meditative and engaging. You're also releasing endorphins that help with pain, as well as boosting serotonin levels whenever you are rewarded or beat a level.
7. Building social connections—Gaming has long been a social activity. Weekend gaming sessions are a staple of growing up in the digital age. Online immersive games of a collaborative nature also connect people all over the world in achieving game-oriented goals.
8. Creating friendships—Video games let us network with people and become social. We are social beings, after all, and isolation from others contributes to feelings of negativity.
9. Decision-making—Indecision can have an adverse affect on mental health. Playing video games hones our ability to make fast and decisive choices to achieve preferred outcomes. It's not about always making the right decision, because you won't, just like in life. The point is learning to make the decision in the first place.
10. Curbing appetite—When we play video games, our brains are completely engaged and occupied with the tasks at hand. It's not like consuming TV programs, which encourage mindless snacking. With a video game, you and your brain are all in and the urge to snack takes a backseat.
11. Reducing stress—Again, this comes down to redirecting and refocusing our attention. Playing video games can be a welcoming and relaxing distraction from the hardships of a busy day. Also, video games teach spur-of-the-moment planning and reaction mindsets as they throw things at you at random. You learn to approach the surprises and stresses of the day in the same way you would the challenges of a video game.
12. Fine motor skill development—Who would have thought gamers make better surgeons? Studies have shown that the intricate movement involved in video game playing, as well as quick thinking and reasoning, all contribute to fine motor skill development.
How are you and your kids, or students, using video games for health and wellness?