So, Shadowlands, the newest expansion in the World of Warcraft franchise just dropped on Monday, November 23rd and it got me thinking: How can I enjoy playing copious hours of this game and still maintain my personal health? So, I’m here to provide some tips on how to not destroy your body and mind from hours of gametime, whether you’re bingeing a new league on Path of Exile, enjoying Shadowlands, or just doing your usual long runs of League of Legends or Fortnight.
During a stint of PC or console gaming, you’re probably not moving around much. To keep those joints flexible(1) and get your muscle some much-needed blood flow, take a break every once in a while to stretch. Ideally, you should do a full-body stretch routine. I will not be posting a routine here, as I plan to add stretching routines for various purposes in future articles.
Muscle atrophies (gets smaller) over time if you are chronically inactive(2), so you need to get up and pump up those muscles a bit. Now, I’m not talking about doing some barbell squats in front of your PC. Just stand up and get moving. Do a few sets of pushups, bodyweight squats, burpees, lunges, or any other resistance exercise. Resistance training is what builds and maintains muscle size and strength(1), so you need to make time to get at least a little pumped up. Here’s a handy list of some exercises for each major area of the body that don’t require any equipment and are easy for beginners. If you’re going to do a quick routine, be sure to pick one or some from each category for a full-body workout.
|Arms||Pushups (Traditional, Knee, Elevated)|
Dips (using countertop, chair, or other stationary surface)
Bulgarian Split Squats
Lunges (forward or reverse)
Sumo Bodyweight Squats
Planks with Hip Raises
Maintain Cardiovascular Fitness
When your heart gets pumping during an intense moment in a game, it doesn’t really count for improving your cardiovascular fitness. There is some good news here: You don’t have to run a marathon or do a triathlon to keep your heart healthy. Just go outside for a walk. Put on your pants and head outside for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Don’t keep it too leisurely. You want to get that heart rate up.
Stay Hydrated and Fed
I’m sure we’ve all done it. You’re playing a game and before you know it, it’s been 5 hours and you’re hungry, thirsty, and have to pee like hell, and you didn’t even realize any of this until you took a break. To stay hydrated, just keep a bottle of water with you at your desk. Not Mountain Dew or Diet Coke. Just water. Zero-calorie flavored and carbonated waters count.
For food, I always advocate for healthy snacks, and I know you’re probably eager to eat quick and get back to your game. So, consider enjoying some veggies and hummus, a quick sandwich, fresh fruit, microwaved veggies, or lightly-salted popcorn. There’s plenty of other healthy snacks you can eat, but these are some of my favorites that are easy to keep around the desk and munch on when I’m waiting on a loading screen or something.
I can’t think of any health-related routine that is more often interrupted when it comes to binge-gaming than sleeping. You might be waking up earlier to play or going to bed later, if at all. Sleep is important to normal cognitive function(3). It has negative effects on your attention, memory, logical reasoning, and reaction time. You could end up performing worse in your games when you’re deprived of sleep because of these.
So, to get good sleep to help you feel ready to take on the day’s in-game challenges, you need to build some habits around these rules:
- Get enough sleep. For adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep(4) for those who follow a traditional sleep habit of one long sleep per day.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.
- Make the area where you sleep dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Pop on the night light, the white noise machine, and grab a stuffed animal.
- Don’t drink caffeine a few hours before you go to bed.
- Get a bit of exercise during the day (but not too close to bed)(5).
- Avoid screen time close to bedtime(6).
If you’re feeling tired during but don’t want to miss out on game time, consider taking a quick nap. 20 to 40 minutes should suffice without affecting your normal, long sleep(8).
I know it’s tempting to guzzle down coffee and energy drinks to keep your eyes open while you get in some late night gaming, but it’s important to mention that, in case you don’t know, caffeine addiction is a thing(7). If you use drinks like coffee and energy drinks to get an energy boost on a daily basis, consider trying black or green tea or decaf coffee while cutting back on how often you consume it.
Take a Mindful Moment
The big take-home I want you to walk away with is to just be aware of your body and your needs when you’re in the zone. A simple way to do this is what I like to call a “Mindful Moment.” Take a break once an hour during your game time and sit quietly and comfortably in your seat. Close your eyes, take a few deep, controlled breaths, and do a quick body scan. To do this, simply focus on one part or region of your body at a time from top to bottom or bottom to top. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Does anything hurt? Maybe I need to get up and stretch or adjust my posture.
- Am I hungry or thirsty? I should get something to eat.
- Am I feeling tired? Maybe I should get some rest.
- Do I have to go to the bathroom? I shouldn’t hold it. If you gotta go, you gotta go.
- Am I smelly? Maybe I should wash up.
That’s all there is to it. Be aware of your body and your needs and do what you need to do to stay healthy and comfortable. In a future post, I will explain why doing these things will help you with your gaming and even how habits like these can make you a better competitive gamer.
Until then, stay healthy and take care of yourself.
- Bushman, B. A. (Ed.). (2017). ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness & Health (Second ed.). Human Kinetics.
- Berg, H. E., Eiken, O., Miklavcic, L., & Mekjavic, I. B. (2006). Hip, thigh and calf muscle atrophy and bone loss after 5-week bedrest inactivity. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(3), 283–289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0346-y
- Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 3(5), 553–567.
- Hirshkowitz et al., (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010
- CDC – Sleep Hygiene Tips – Sleep and Sleep Disorders. (2016). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, July 7). Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
- Meredith, S. E., Juliano, L. M., Hughes, J. R., & Griffiths, R. R. (2013). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. Journal of caffeine research, 3(3), 114–130. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0016
- Fry, A. (2020, December 4). Napping: Health Benefits & Tips for Your Best Nap. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping
- Featured Photo by Max DeRoin from Pexels