Gamers might want to work out

Video game aficionados might need to get more exercise – and not for the obvious reasons.

Canadian research suggests that as little as 15 minutes of intense cardiovascular activity just before a game can help them perform better, even though they don’t actually need to be fit to play.

The work was carried out by neuroscientists at McGill University, who are more used to studying the impact of exercise on brain plasticity and cognition in people who have conditions such as stroke or Parkinson’s Disease.

Intrigued, they decided to compare the performance of two groups of people when playing the same customised mission in the popular online game League of Legends. Half exercised before playing, while the others rested.

And the results were quite stark.

“It was surprising that most participants benefited from the effects of exercise regardless of their fitness level and their emotional response to exercise,” says Marc Roig, lead author of a paper in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“It was striking to see that those participants who were not in exceptionally good shape or were not particularly crazy about exercise also improved their video game skill level after the single bout of exercise. 

“This suggests that this intervention could be suitable for many individuals in our society.”

Roig and colleagues would now like to better understand the underlying mechanisms and to test whether their findings can be extrapolated to other games and other exercise regimes?

Can gamers get really good by getting really fit? And is that enough to change the habits of people who tend to be sedentary?

Several studies have shown that increased screen time, including video gaming, is associated with low levels of physical activity and that video gamers who exceed screen-time limits are at greater risk of experiencing health issues associated with physical inactivity. 

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