We’ve all heard the snarky remarks. Gamers are overweight, inactive and anti-social. Gamers would as soon sit in front of a monitor or television screen eating Cheetos and pot-pies all day rather than walk, let alone run around the block. Most of society has pegged us for being lazy and sedentary. But as the years have passed and I’ve grown as a gamer, I’m noticing some significant changes gamers are making to break our stereotype.
For one thing, the demographic of the quintessential gamer is changing. The Atari 2600 and Colecovision generation of gamers are now in their 30’s and 40’s and we still haven’t let go of our controllers. We’ve just changed them out for stealthy, ergonomic controllers and multi-keyed gaming mouses as our sport of choice has launched into the current generation of systems. Basically, we traded in our Pinto and bought a Ferrari.
But what else comes along with leveling up as a human? Life happens. We’ve learned trades, entered professions, fell in love, got married, bought houses and spawned younglings. All of that can make us fat (and in many cases, has). Why? Because our lives become less about ourselves and more about taking care of those we love. So we ignore our own needs for awhile and before you know it, you’ve entered a vicious downward spiral that can be a daunting challenge to climb out of. However, over the past few years I’ve taken notice of gamers crushing the mold. Gamers are watching what they eat and they are getting out of their chairs and moving! I noticed much of this happening around the time dance and fitness games hit the stage. Games systems like Nintendo’s Wii and musical games like Dance, Dance Revolution have lit a fire under many gamer’s chairs and have us up and shaking the fat off!
Coupled with an ‘enough is enough’ attitude, there are some incredible changes taking place in the world of gamer’s health and wellness. I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a health nut with a passion for spreading the word. But gamers can be a tough audience. We are a fickle bunch (I know because I am one, so I can pull back the curtain a little). Many gamers are shy and some are a bit introverted. But as we age, gamers are starting to realize the importance of keeping our bodies working properly.
If you spend any time on Twitter, it won’t take you long to notice gamers posting pictures of their healthy meals, hash-tagging ‘healthy gamer’ or soliciting help in how to begin a healthier lifestyle. Gaming community forums are sprouting threads about how to lose weight and gamers are swapping healthy recipes. A movement is taking place, right under our noses because we’re realizing that we can no longer sit idle and eat the same junk we’ve been eating for years. Our happiness and longevity depend on our habits and we know it.
What about the claims that gamers are anti-social? Blaspheme! If you ask me, that’s just plain crazy. As a matter of fact, with the advent of gaming social media platforms like XBox Live, PSN, Raptr and Steam, gamers are chatting up a storm. Couple that with the juggernauts of social media like Facebook, YouTube,Twitter and now Twitch, it’s no wonder why gamers have earned a spot among the most socially interactive creatures in the world. Gamers are grouping up in games, guilds, sharing game interests, opinions about the industry, gamer scores and coming out of the basement altogether at real-world meet ups. Amazing!
So where do you start with improving your health and wellness as a gamer? Well, there are several areas where you can begin implementing healthy changes. Here are some recommendations.
CHANGE YOUR FUEL SOURCES
Well I might as well hit the most important aspect of health and wellness right off the bat. Feel free to throw rotten vegetables at me. There is no way around it. The foods you put into your body are the cornerstone of your overall health and wellness. Making smarter choices will make a huge difference in how your body processes fuels and how you feel on a daily basis. Looking for some natural energy? Eat clean! Don’t consider it a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Here are a few changes you can make in relation to food choices:
1. Eat less bread, pasta and rice. Replace the bulk with mostly fresh vegetables and a little fruit.
2. Don’t eat fried foods. Baking, grilling, steaming and lightly sautéing your foods is much better for you!
3. Snack on Quest Bars! They’re delicious and an extremely clean source of high quality protein.
4. Eat leaner cuts of meat. For example, chicken breasts instead of legs, lean steaks instead of ribs and trim the excess fat prior to cooking.
5. Don’t drown your food in dressing or barbecue sauces. Dressings and sauces are full of corn syrups, refined sugars and preservatives. Try fresh salsa instead!
6. Cut the soda and juices out of your diet. Period. These sugar and chemical-laden beverages are a huge part of the obesity in modern society, replace them with water! Along with reducing intake from bread, pasta and rice, this is one of the most difficult changes to make in your lifestyle, but incredibly important.
8. Adopt at least an 80/20 lifestyle. This means you should eat clean as described above about 80% of the time, while the 20% can be reserved for special occasions such as a night out with friends or a family party where you can cut loose and eat what you want.
GET UP AND GET MOVING
The more blood you circulate through your heart and blood vessels, the healthier and happier your heart will be. Even if you aren’t especially keen on going for a jog or hitting the gym, getting your body moving is much more beneficial than leading a sedentary lifestyle. It’s all a matter of calories in/calories out. If you are burning more calories each day than you are consuming, you will naturally shed excess fat. So get that blood moving! Walk, bike, run, row, weight lift, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, triathlon, salsa, high-intensity interval training, Crossfit…whatever it takes, get moving.
GET YOUR REST
Ask a gamer how important sleep is to daily function and you’d get a wide range of answers. The younger gamers tend to have a stronger resolve when it comes to staying up all night. More weathered gamers like myself blame that on youth and League of Legends. But I can’t stress enough the importance of getting enough restful sleep. Many studies repeat the same conclusion about how long you should sleep. There is no magic number. Where one person may need 9 hours of sleep per day, another may function perfectly on 6 or 7 hours. The key is to get enough sleep for your individual needs. You’ll know when you’ve hit your magic number.
REAL LIFE COMES FIRST, ALWAYS
Balancing your game time with your (actual) social life and family priorities is of utmost importance in maintaining longevity as a dedicated gamer. Trust me on this one. Especially us married dudes. Back in my dumb days, I nearly tanked my marriage because of my need to play World of Warcraft all day. Once I learned to balance my life on earth with my life in Azeroth, I found that happy balance (and stayed married). It was a matter of knowing my priorities and setting boundaries for myself. For example, nowadays I don’t play games until I’ve completed a workout, picked a cleaning project around the house and I’ve spent time with my wife and daughter. Only then will I allow myself the time to sit and game. Just remember, real life first!
If you haven’t already, I hope some of these tips will help you realize the importance of being a healthy human. Clean food intake, active movements, plenty of rest and a healthy balance of real world/virtual world will keep you gaming strong for a long, long time. The key to this secret formula is commitment and consistency. No matter where you are with your health and wellness, you can start making improvements today! Whether you are all-in or just curious about a few points I covered, you CAN be a stronger, leaner, healthier gamer. It just takes you to make a conscious choice.