Exercise Can Make You A Better Player: Study

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Montreal: A new study has found that exercise may actually make players better at their craft.

The very idea that physical activity has a positive impact on performance in video games seems counter-intuitive, but the findings of research conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Marc Roig and his team at the School of Physiotherapy and McGill University’s occupational therapy challenges the prevailing view that the two are antagonistic to each other. The results were published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“The idea for the study actually came from two of my Memory Lab students, Bernat de Las Heras and Orville Li,” says Dr. Roig, lead author of the study.

“They spent so much time and effort studying the impact of exercise on brain plasticity and cognition in people with various conditions such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease, that they were curious to also explore the relationship between exercise and video game performance, a leisure activity that some of them are familiar with. The question was whether a single exercise could improve the performance of video games?
Several studies have shown that increased screen time, including video games, is associated with low levels of physical activity and that video gamers who exceed screen time limits are at greater risk of experiencing health problems associated with physical inactivity.

Evidence also shows that a lack of physical activity combined with increased sedentary activity increases the risk of health problems, including clinical cardiometabolic problems such as hyperlipidemia, coronary heart disease and diabetes, as well as psychosocial problems.

Participation in an exercise program can improve overall health, reduce the risk of developing these cardiometabolic health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, and has also been shown to have positive effects on cognition.

During their work at the Memory Lab, the researchers showed that just 15 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise, done just before playing a video game, improved the performance of the popular online video game League of Legends (LoL). .

To complete the study, a group of young people were asked to perform intense cardiovascular exercise or rest immediately before playing the same custom mission in LoL. Their performance in video games has been observed and documented and improved after exercise compared to rest.

The latest statistics show that there are 2.3 billion video game players in the world and this number is expected to increase to 2.7 billion by 2021. Online video game platforms such as League of Legends or Fortnite have 67 and 78.3 million players per month respectively. As the use of video games increases, as a society we are failing to promote physical activity among younger people.

The results of this study could produce a dramatic shift in the discussion of video games, as the results provide a strong argument to convince the growing number of video gamers around the world to become more physically active.

“It was surprising that most participants benefited from the effects of exercise, regardless of their level of fitness and emotional response to exercise,” notes Dr. Roig.

“It was striking to see that participants who weren’t in very good physical shape or who weren’t particularly keen on exercise also improved their skill level in video games after the single exercise session.

This suggests that this intervention could be suitable for many people in our society. Video gamers could potentially incorporate exercise into their training routines not only to improve their video game performance, but also to benefit from the well-known effects of exercise on physical and cognitive health.

For the future, the group would be interested to see if these results can be extrapolated to other video games and if other exercise modalities would have similar effects. It would also be interesting to examine the potential underlying mechanisms and whether multiple workouts would have summative effects on video game skills.

Finally, but not least, one can wonder if the results of this study will be sufficient to change the habits of sedentary video gamers and their outlook on physical activity.

Dr Roig says one of the main challenges of the study was to create a video game task that was close enough to real video games, but which also allowed researchers to measure player performance reliably.
This is why the research group is considering a partnership with a company to create a video game platform for research purposes. The idea would be to create a video game that could be used to study the effects of different interventions (eg exercise) on different cognitive and motor skills.

They would also like to explore the combined effects of exercise and video games as a multimodal intervention to improve cognition in people without disabilities but also those with clinical conditions.

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