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Business News/ Technology / Gadgets/  Play more video games for better health

Play more video games for better health

Video games can make your brain function better as well as keep you physically fit, research reports suggest

Video games can boost attention, improve cognitive skills, and can keep you in shape as well. Photo: iStockPremium
Video games can boost attention, improve cognitive skills, and can keep you in shape as well. Photo: iStock

New Delhi: The notion that playing video games make people lazy and drives them away from physical activity, as it turns out, is a bit exaggerated. Recent studies show that playing video games have various health benefits too. They can boost attention, improve cognitive skills, and can keep you in shape as well. So if you are crazy about Subway Surfer and like to play it while commuting back home from work, during lunch break or before going to bed, it might actually be good for you.

Interestingly, video games are increasingly being played by adults. According to Statista, a German market research and statistics company, the average age of gamers is now 35 years. Smartphones have made accessing games easier for many. They are easier to carry, unlike a laptop which is bigger in size or a console which works with a TV screen. This has created a new breed of casual gamers who like playing when they have some free time at hand. Here are some of the benefits of video games.

Rewiring your brain

Researchers from Open University of Catalonia, Spain, examined 116 previous studies about the impact of video games on the functioning and structure of human brain. Their findings, published in June 2017, show that brain regions involved in attention are more efficient in gamers when it comes to sustaining attention for demanding tasks.

Also, video games can increase the size and efficiency of brain regions related to visuospatial skills. It is a set of skills which allows people to create visual memories of things they see. The right hippocampus, a region in brain responsible for emotions and long-term memory, was also found to be enlarged in gamers after a video gaming session.

Another study carried out at RMIT University, Melbourne, published in August 2016, found that teenagers who played online video games showed improvement in problem-solving skills and performed better at their studies too.

A Penn University study, published in February 2016, found that participants who played a golf game using Nintendo Wii motion controller also performed better in real-world putting compared to participants who had no video game training.

Physical exercise through games

According to a Minnesota-based Healthcare company United Group, video games can boost physical activity levels in overweight children undergoing weight management programs. Researchers from North Carolina State University, in one of their studies which was published in March 2016, found that senior citizens who played games on Nintendo Wii were more physically active, cheerful and social than non-gamers.

A study from University of Sydney, published in May 2017, claims that VR games can make up for lack of physical exercise. The researchers monitored the heart rates of participants while they played VR games and found that their heart rate was equivalent to light exercise such as walking with games such as Fruit Ninja and at par with moderate exercises such as dancing with games like Holopoint. The study also points out that if the VR games are more engaging people don’t mind the physical exercise.

How video games can help in treatment

A joint study by researchers from the University of Washington and University of California, San Francisco, published in January 2017, found that people suffering from depression responded better through mobile games compared to those who received traditional problem-solving therapy.

Not only they reported improved moods but also showed improvement in attention span and ability to function.

VR gaming is still in a nascent stage, but its ability to simulate three-dimensional scenarios allowing users to experience the visuals as if they are part of the action can be very effective in such treatments. The simulations also feel more believable than scenarios created through conversation-based therapy.

A British study published in March 2017 suggests that VR-generated environments can help people undergoing psychological treatment identify problems by simulating their problematic situations. Researchers examined 285 empirical studies on mental disorders and found that VR-based treatments can alleviate anxiety disorders more effectively.

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Abhijit Ahaskar
Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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Published: 28 Jun 2017, 11:45 AM IST
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