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When You Play Video Games Every Day, This Is What Happens To Your Body

Playing video games every single day can affect you physically, socially, and behaviorally. What gaming does to you can also be polarizing topic in terms of how "good" or "bad" it actually is for you. Plenty of people think engaging in this type of screen time is unquestionably terrible for you, while others believe there are clear reasons everyone should get on their Nintendos and play at least a little bit. The truth is a bit more complicated, because researchers are finding that video games can have clear benefits. Yet the drawbacks are real and can be severe, too.


As with all things, how you react to daily gaming will depend on your own personal proclivities and your individual health condition. There's no reason gaming can't be part of a healthy lifestyle, though, as long as you know your limits. How exactly does gaming affect your body? Well, the answer to that includes aspects of the mind, too, because everything is intertwined.

Playing games can contribute to a healthy mind-body connection

The U.K.'s Dave TV did a survey on gaming in 2018. The channel found that 55 percent of Millennial gamers played in order to cope with stress and unwind. Half also said that they felt that gaming was a valuable escape for them from pressures of work. About 27 percent of gamers felt that playing games had had a positive effect their mental health. And those gamers weren't just blowing smoke — their feelings are backed up in scientific literature. Numerous studies have shown that gaming stimulates the motivation and learning centers of the brain. These areas of the brain are the most affected by depression.


"In other words, video game play is literally the neurological opposite of depression," the publication Slate said.

As the Behavioral Science institute at Radboud University in the Netherlands points out, video games are good way of engaging those in need of mental health services. Because they're fun, they make people want to keep going — and players don't mind practicing their skills or overcoming obstacles inside games. Games also remove the stigma of treatment.

"We're using games to hijack this enthusiasm for purposes beyond entertainment, in order to train emotional resilience skills that will prevent anxiety and depression...all while they're also slaying dragons, socializing with friends, and having fun," wrote professor of developmental psychology Isabela Granic.


Since anxiety and depression can manifest in physical symptoms, reducing your negative emotions can help your overall wellness.

Better efficiency as a worker and team player

Gaming can make you a better, kinder, more efficient member of society, too. Although the common wisdom about first-person shooters is that they breed violence by dehumanizing people and teaching people to kill, studies do exist that show the opposite is true. In fact, a Texas Tech researcher found that cooperative play in shooters can result in less aggression and more team-building.


"Generally, people playing cooperatively seemed to really focus on and value those relationships that are going on when they are playing," researcher John Velez told Texas Tech Today. "They focus more on the social aspects and focus less on the violence and aggression. It's more important to them to think about how they're interacting with other people."

Studies have also shown that video games can help people learn to multitask better. One such work in the journal Developmental Review from 2014 noted, "Action video games, but also other types of video games (e.g., Real Time Strategy games), might prove exceptionally efficient tools to enhance multitasking ability." Why? Because "they require players to constantly re-evaluate their current task set in the context of a fast-changing environment, thus putting a premium on cognitive flexibility and indeed the ability to swiftly re-evaluate goals and sub-goals as contingencies change."


Basically, these games can help you adapt more quickly to changes and come up with a "plan B" if necessary. Not bad.

You may experience improved spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination

You've heard for years that video games are good for improving hand-eye coordination. Not only is the research showing this to be true, but it turns out that people who are chronic gamers are better and faster at learning tasks that require hand-eye coordination. For example, a 2016 study published in Psychological Science found that gamers improved their mastery of a game at a much faster rate than non-gamers.


Psychology Today commented on the study, noting, "These results are particularly interesting in light of the number of adults who spend a lot of time just sitting in front of screens watching television, movies, and surfing the internet. This work suggests that adults would benefit from more activities that require coordinated activity. Even action video game play is likely to have greater benefit than passively watching a screen."

Additionally, researchers have found that video games improve your spatial awareness. Basically, games can train you to be more navigationally aware because you can transfer what you learn in a gaming environment to a real one. Your body may benefit from this in the form of fewer bumps and bruises, increased map-reading ability, a better understanding of how to put together Ikea furniture, and achievement in STEM fields.


All this can research can basically be boiled down to: Practice makes perfect. Video games makes repetitive tasks fun, and practicing skills can improve them. Forget binge-watching Tiger King. As it turns out, video games might be where it's at. 

Negative side effects include wrist, eye, and back pain — and addiction

Lest you think that video gaming every day only has positive effects on your body, consider the unhappy side effects you may experience as a result — some of which can be quite serious. These includes overuse injuries, such as tendonitis and neck and back pain, along with eye strain. Gamers are often more prone to such conditions because of how much time they spend on a computer making the same motions over and over again.


A growing body of research posits that video games make chemical changes to the brain, too. Some — like improved attention and visuospatial skills — are positive. Addiction, however, is not, and it's a real thing. While studies show that many can play games without any negative consequences, recent research out of Brigham Young University found that about 10 percent of gamers get addicted to games in a way that adversely affects their social and behavioral development.

Ultimately, the effects playing games can have on your body are a mixed bag — a complex interweaving of results that influences your wellness in not-always predictable ways. If you plan on gaming daily, make sure to build in breaks, watch your posture, and do some stretches. Listen to your body's needs so that you can minimize the bad effects and maximize the good ones.