People outside the gaming world may not get it, but gamers know just how much gaming demands from you physically.
One of our top goals here at Ritual Motion is to help each and every gamer in our community learn more about how to take good care of themselves physically and mentally so you can achieve peak performance all the time—both in the game and out of it. Here’s what we’ve learned about what you need to do for your body to game in top form all the time.
Demands on the body
First, let’s look at the demands on your body. Physically, we know that gaming for hours requires a LOT of sitting. Pair that with the muscularity and intensity required of your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders and you get some pretty acute strain on your back and neck. On top of that, gamers look at screens for hours and hours, so our eyes really have their work cut out for them (in both good and bad ways). So, how can you preemptively aid those areas so that perform your best and avoid further strain?
Hands, wrists, arms, shoulders
Make sure you’ve got a good setup while you play. What that means is making sure the blood can stay flowing well from your shoulders through to your fingertips, so that you can keep your muscles charged and oxygenated throughout. Have your keyboard and mouse or controller low enough so that your forearms are not bent upward, which can contribute to issues with blood flow. Wear compression gloves to even further support blood flow to your hands and wrists, where your reflexes and muscles are firing consistently.
Back and neck
Sit with your feet flat on the floor, trying to maintain good posture and an upright back throughout. If you can get a chair that supports your lower back, that’s best, considering we all tend to hunch over if there’s not enough lumbar support. Make sure your computer or screen sits at eye level so that you’re not straining your neck by looking up or down unnaturally for so many hours. It can cause, and in fact has already caused in many of us, a change in the skeletal structure of our spine when we look down too much (ahem, thank you, smartphone).
The other thing to think about regarding your back and neck is simply that when we sit for long periods of time, we typically stop engaging our musculature after a certain point. Our chests start caving inwards, our backs hunch lower and lower, and our tailbones curve under. It’s important to be aware of how you are or are not engaging your core (mid-section) muscles over the course of your game time so that you can better recognize the minute you stop supporting your spine, and then re-engage.
As you may have heard, our screens emit something called blue light. Much in the way that ultra-violet light from the sun can cause stress and damage to our skin, blue light can cause similar stress and damage to our eyes. The docs call it computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain. While exposure to some natural blue light is healthy, the amount of exposure we are now getting of artificial blue light from our devices is not as healthy. Our eyes are simply not attuned to taking in so much of it, and so they have to work harder to filter the light quality and stay clear. Too much blue light can lead to faster eye deterioration than normal, retinal damage, and disruptions to your body’s melatonin production, which affects your sleep.
To help with all of that and keep your eyes in tip-top shape for optimal gaming and performance, we recommend wearing blue light glasses, which are specially designed to filter out much of the extra blue light coming from our screens. There are tons of designs and some made especially for gamers. In fact, we offer a variety of blue light blocking glasses in our shop—be sure to check them out.
For all of these areas and your whole body in general, it’s super key to stay active, stretch regularly, drink lots of water, and take breaks frequently while you play. We go in-depth in this earlier post on each of these to give you more detailed tips and tricks and get you into consistent peak form. For specific exercises and injury prevention tips for your wrists, check out another post here. And for all the info on optimal nutrition for gaming, see this post.
Demands on the mind
Let’s not forget that our mind is just as important as our body in all this, and gaming certainly uses and stretches our mental capacity to incredible levels. This includes strengthening our cognitive abilities and bringing plenty of positive benefits, but it also certainly tests us beyond our usual limits. We’re talking about focus and stress levels. We need to be able to focus and stay focused for long periods of time when gaming. We need to be able to stay present and aware of what’s in front of us—and what surprises us—in order to perform at peak. What really helps with all of that is a little thing called mindfulness.
We wrote all about mindfulness in an earlier post, so be sure to read it! Essentially, implementing a mindfulness practice into your normal routine, and using mindfulness tools while you game—things like breathing exercises and internal body scans—can really help you re-focus and calm down when things escalate. They can also help thwart and redirect unhelpful stress and anxiety that comes into the mix when we’re competing at such high levels. Specifically, if you’re struggling with tilt, definitely check out this post.
Please let us know what tips you use to keep healthy and perform your best.