Can Video Games Improve Your Health?

1.23 billion people around the world spend at least an hour a day playing video games and game designer and author Jane McGonigal thinks that’s a great thing. Video games have a reputation for keeping gamers mostly sedentary for long periods of time, only moving to use the washroom or grab a snack.


In Defense Of Video Games

While there are many statistics about the amount of time spent playing games on phones and home gaming consoles that seem discouraging, that’s not the whole story. Can 1.75 billion minutes per day worldwide spent playing Candy Crush really be a positive thing? What other productive things could those minutes be put toward? McGonigal says that if we rethink our perceptions about gaming, we will see that there’s a utilitarian side of gaming that can help improve health and mobility for people of all ages.

So, when McGonigal suffered a traumatic brain injury a few years ago, she created her own game to help herself heal. Called Jane the Concussion Slayer, McGonigal came up with a secret identity for herself, sought out allies to help her get better and gave herself “power-ups” when she reached new benchmarks in the healing process.

Getting People Active

Did you know that many nursing homes offer Wii Fit for residents as an easy and accessible way for them to get exercise without too much risk of injury or accident. Video games that utilize the whole body and movements-like Wii Fit-are proven to help patients with Parkinson’s Disease to increase their gait velocity, stride and balance. They have also helped kids gamify eating habits so that they increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. That could greatly decrease the incident of childhood obesity.

American Psychological Association recently published a study verifying that playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills. And more simple games, like Angry Birds, Kids playing video gamescan improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety.

Choosing The Right Game Has Its Benefits

It stands to reason that choosing the right game for the health issue a person is facing, whether it’s physical conditioning or mental health, could greatly increase the chances of becoming a healthier person. That is, when paired with proper nutrition and other supportive -physical therapy, psychological counseling and medication, games have the capability of complementing a whole body and mind health regimen.

When we employ games to help us improve our health, just like when we actively go to the gym to exercise our muscles, that’s an act of a hopeful and empowered individual. Now, how does that bust open the image of the gamer as a lazy couch potato?