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How video games can hurt your health

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Boniface Mithika | September 12th 2021

Moderation is key to every aspect of life. And while video games can be fun and a social activity when integrated into a healthy lifestyle, it can turn on you if not well managed. Binge gaming has led many down a rabbit hole.

A well-balanced life should include plenty of sleep, exercise and good nutrition.

Most of the harm that come from gaming can be managed, if not avoided altogether, by limiting the number of hours spent in front of the screen. It is also important to engage in healthy activities like exercising, or socialising in the real world instead of the virtual game world.

When done well, there are a lot of benefits to be derived from video games. Some cognitive benefits that have been cited include better control of one’s attention and improved reasoning. 

And video games have actually made it to the medicine world since they are used in training people with degenerative diseases to improve their balance and even training surgeons on how to do technically complicated operations.

Injuries

Gamers experience injuries due to excessive repetitive use of muscle and tendons. Overuse injuries of the hands and arms are rampant. One common example is carpel tunnel syndrome, which involves inflammation of a nerve in the wrist, which causes pain and numbness.

Gamers are also at risk for trigger finger, which is when a finger gets stuck in the bent position due to chronic inflammation. They can also get tennis elbow, a painful inflammation of the place where the tendon inserts into the bone on the outside of the elbow.

Obesity

While gaming requires one to sit down for a very long time, this exercise might lead to obscene weight gain to the ones involved. The obesity comes about due to increased food intake while playing video games.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found out that a single session of video game play in healthy male adolescents is associated with an increased food intake regardless of appetite sensations.

Vision problems

Sitting in front of a screen all day long takes a toll on the eyes. The most common vision problem is eye strain, which can lead to headaches and poor concentration. Gaming has been reported to result in seizures, leading to warnings on the packaging.

Addiction

In 2018, The World Health Organisation added “gaming disorder” to the 2018 version of its medical reference book, International Classification of Diseases.

Video games affect the brain in the same way as addictive drugs: they trigger the release of dopamine, a chemical that reinforces behaviour. For this reason, playing video games can be an addictive stimulus.

Some signs to watch out for include; obsessive behavior such as restlessness, irritability and aggression, signs of exhaustion and lack of interests in other activities. 

Sleep deprivation

Gaming has also been associated with sleep deprivation, depression, aggression, and anxiety. There has also been concern that exposure to the extreme violence that is commonly found in video games can desensitize teens and young adults to such violence. This can cause emotional problems or lead to young people committing acts of violence.

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