The prospect of eSports coming to the 2024 Olympics has sparked a great deal of interest. While some don't agree that gaming is a "sport," others point out how approximately 43 million people watched the 2016 League of Legends Championship tournament. No matter what side of the fence you're on, eSports is a growing trend.
But what about the health and fitness aspect of gaming? Does exercise and proper eating habits affect gameplay? In reality, health and fitness may have more to do with eSports than some might think.
Improving Cognitive Abilities
Various games include a great deal of mental concentration. It's more than just point-and-click if you're facing off against a human opponent. Strategies, timing, and memory are crucial for winning.
Various studies point to how aerobic and cardiovascular exercise contribute to increasing the size of the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that governs over memory and spatial navigation. Does it sound like something gamers could use when competing in eSports?
Exercise isn't the only aspect of health that benefits the brain, either. Your diet will also play a prominent role in out-thinking an opponent. For example, blueberries have been found to improve spatial memory in laboratory animals as well as improving brain function in older adults.
This isn't saying you'll turn into Albert Einstein with a controller in one hand and a bag of fruit in the other. However, a proper and healthy diet will increase the brain's ability to operate on a higher level over time. It's not an instant fix, but the benefits are great once you get into the habit of eating right.
In reality, anything that benefits the power of the brain is going to benefit those who play eSports. This includes fatty fish, B-complex vitamins, and yes, even caffeine. Just keep in mind that humans cannot operate on coffee and energy drinks alone. The body still needs a balance of nutrients to function properly.
Enhancing Sleep Patterns
Regular exercise is a great way to enhance your sleeping patterns. Why is this important? Because a lack of sleep is incredibly harmful to the body. Young people may not realize it now, but late-night binges reduce the body's ability to act.
Sleep deprivation can affect attention, cognitive processing, memory, and decision-making — elements vastly needed for competitive eSports. Being exhausted can also cause one to have hallucinations.
I can recall a time when I was working and had a hallucination of a customer pulling up in a white car. Hallucinations may sound fun for some, but consider how mistakes are made because of them. What if you were hallucinating an opponent in one area while he or she was somewhere else?
The effects of sleep deprivation is extensively documented. It has been a point of interest for over 100 years, and technology today gives us a visualization of how a lack of sleep affects the brain. Exercise and relaxation contribute to helping you sleep, which will directly affect how you function the next day.
Improving Your Mood
If you're a serious gamer, you've probably rage-quit at least once in your life. Your mood is just as vital in the digital world as it is in reality. Exercise helps improve these moods and contributes to managing your emotions.
Many of you may have heard the term, "runner's high." This is the feeling of euphoria marathon runners feel after an excessively long activity. However, runners are not the only ones who can feel this sensation. Any intensive and prolonged physical activity can have a similar effect, thanks to various neurotransmitters.
The reason improving your mood is so important as a gamer is because it reduces the onset of stress. High levels of anxiety can affect many different areas both physical and mental. For instance, high levels of stress will affect your memory. It also contributes to losing control during intense moments. This is true whether you're in eSports or facing off against a tough defensive line in football.
You've probably heard the phrase, "Positive things happen to positive people." This saying is more true than what you might realize. I'm not saying you should walk around with a flower in your ear spreading the word of peace. However, maintaining your composure keeps the mind focused and unhindered by stress.
Being positive and maintaining your mood reduces mistakes. It also promotes concentration and a clear train of thought. This is why a lot of people will walk away from an argument or a stressful situation. It's to regain composure for rational thought. And being rational and logical is vital in eSports.
Longevity and Stamina
Perhaps the most important aspect to health and fitness is the longevity of effects. Instead of a sugar rush, which may only last 30 minutes or so, a primed body maintains its ability over the long-term. This means that proper health and fitness gives you an edge over those who rely more on branded energy drinks or soda pop.
In any competition, those with the greater stamina usually win out. While skills do play a major role in any sport, being able to sustain that ability for a long period is where it counts. Although stimulants like caffeine and other goodies give you a boost, a properly prepared body requires less external sources.
It's like comparing a car that gets 12 miles to the gallon as opposed to 32. How much mileage can you get out of your body without stopping to refuel?
I take part in the Extra Life gaming charity event every year. During the event, I'll attempt to put in 24 hours of gaming for the Children's Miracle Network. Since being on my health kick, I can say that it has made a big difference in how long I can play while retaining a bit of skill.
Training for eSports
The key element in eSports for physical training is cardiovascular activity. This is because cardio workouts improve blood flow to the brain. It provides the one component the brain needs most for proper function: oxygen. Don't rely on caffeine to get you through the tournament. Instead, strengthen the body and the mind for superior benefits.