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Health Benefits of Gaming – Geek Insider FYI

by Pamela McMillan

Video games have been getting a bad rap for a while now. If they aren’t being blamed for violent behavior, depression, or addiction then it’s something else. Maybe it is time to focus on the good things that video games do for us.

A Great Workout

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The way gaming can improve a player’s eyesight, response time, manual dexterity, and motor function in their hands (like in Call of Duty or Super Mario 64) are some awesome upsides but it has also been proven to help stroke victims. A recent study showed that stroke victims that played video games actually healed more fully than those that didn’t. Only the ones that played video games showed an increase in strength in their hands, not to mention they were more likely to perform double the amount of arm movement exercises and be more goal orientated. Not impressed yet? Well, how about the fact that children with amblyopia (lazy eye) were able to heal faster if they played video games rather than wear an eye patch. In fact, the study showed that just one hour of video games was comparable to about 400 hours of eye patch therapy.

But video games aren’t done with your body yet, a study done in March revealed that active gaming can help reduce obesity in children. This study compared two groups of children in a weight management program, however only half received X Box 360 consoles with Kinect (assumedly the other half cried). Now the children who didn’t have the consoles did lose weight but incredibly; the children that were playing video games lost more. While using the Kinect and participating in “active gaming”, those children were able to lose 100% more weight than the kids that didn’t. Yes, that’s right. 100% more.

Steroids for Your Brain

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It makes sense that video games, especially action based ones like Call of Duty and Halo, can improve a player’s ability of making out details and managing events 30%-50% more than someone who doesn’t play (all those painstakingly aimed head shots are finally giving something back besides that sweet, sweet sense of satisfaction). It also makes sense that games like Starcraft can greatly improve a person’s brain flexibility and other games like Super Mario have shown to improve spatial navigation, memory formation, and strategic planning (after all those Koopas are tricky little scoundrels and those Thwomps won’t dodge themselves). But video games are capable of so much more.

Elderly adults who played specially designed brain teaser games showed a decrease in mental decay and improved a wide range of cognitive abilities. Video games have also been able to help dyslexics read faster and more accurately, they can improve literacy in children from 4 – 5 years of age, allowing them to learn letter recognition and story comprehensive sooner than their peers. If that wasn’t enough, video games actually increase the amount of gray matter in your head. Gamers in various studies have shown a thicker cortex, a bigger right hippocampus, and cerebellum (this is a good thing, don’t worry. It means you’re getting smarter.)

Then there are the games that are specifically designed to help people. These video games can be used to treat OCD (Dirty Bathroom), phobias (Spiderworld), and addictions (Chez Fortune). Others have been used to lessen the pain of people going through chemotherapy or those suffer from serious burn trauma (Snow World) by distracting them from their pain in a virtual world.

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Gamers Don’t Get All The Benefits

So far, all of these benefits have been about the gamer but it’s not all about you. Gamers have actually helped the world in their own turn. Galaxy Zoo is a game that has identified 50 million real galaxies and celestial bodies because of its players. Games like Eterna and Fold It have helped scientists understand so much more about genetics because its players have solved dozens of biochemical puzzles.

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So, video games? Actually great for people’s health and the world, too. Who knew?

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