Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a marathon, day-long session of gaming. Now lower your hand. Now raise it again. That was important, actually. Gaming may be a great way to spend an hour or twenty-four, but it’s an extremely sedentary hobby. And if you’re don’t exercise and eat right, over time you can find yourself with multiple unwanted pounds or even circulatory problems and high blood pressure. That can’t possibly be good for your game.
In fact, it isn’t. Being sedentary is bad for your energy levels. Considering that gaming can require both hair-trigger reactions as well as the ability to concentrate for hours on end, it’s important to maintain good energy levels.
Enter Robin Foroutan, a dietitian/nutritionist who practices integrative medicine and holistic health, who talked to me about the healthiest way to spend a marathon session. Here’s what we came up with:
Exercise before you play
Before you sit down with the keyboard or gamepad, exercise first. If you don’t belong to a gym, you can exercise at home. Foroutan said, “The more you pump the blood, you’re oxygenating the brain, and you can pay attention better. That’s what good blood flow and good breathing will do for you.”
Foroutan says that gamers should do push-ups, “so you can get some blood flowing to your arms and hands.” This may improve your reaction time.
Not athletic? Not a problem. “My thinking is that gamers are competitive in a numbers way. So start off with ten seconds in plank position, but keep track of that, and build on your score. I think that’s a good way to motivate,” she said.
Prepare food before you play, too
Because Halo 4 or Hitman: Absolution won’t play itself, you sometimes have to power through it. And I learned from experience that it’s better to have an all-day marathon session with healthy food on hand. That way, you can grab them from the fridge and go.
Since preparing healthy foods in advance is beyond my extremely limited cooking abilities, I keep a selection of good take-out menus near my computer, as well as some decent snacks (below).
Foroutan also recommends that you go outside and get some much-needed sunlight. “If you’re not exposed to sunlight during the day, it can mess with our circadian rhythm and leads to fatigue and poor sleep.”
Watch your posture
Right before you sit in that chair, “Roll your spine on a foam roller, so you can maintain better posture, and maybe even some sit-ups to keep the core strong. I like the idea of planks, so you can maintain better posture.” Good posture will help you stave off back and neck issues. And you want to your rage to come from tricky bosses, not neck pain.
Just because you’re sitting down to game, it doesn’t mean you can’t move. “While you’re playing a game, flex your gluts (one side at a time), or at least sit up straight and tighten your stomach muscles,” Forotran said, “Isometric exercise counts.” I also found some chair exercises, here.
You can do more full-body exercise too between load times (or after an annoying crash) by standing up and moving around. When I have a few spare moments, I run in place, use some handweights, or even take the staircase. And when sitting down, I sometimes strap on ankle weights and do leg lifts.
As Foroutan said, “I want gamers to move their bodies. It helps the brain, so it’s only going to help their game.”
What not to eat
Foroutan said, “When you’re sedentary, you don’t need that many calories. Specifically you don’t need that many carbs. You need to avoid white flour, rice, potatoes, corn, because if you’re not burning off those carbohydrates, it’s going to be stored as fat. That’s especially true for sugars, like table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even agave.”