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Science says video games are good for your physical and mental health

Published: 07 AUG 2018 09:23AM

Words by AC Speed | Senior Editor


In the first randomized controlled study of it’s kind, a team at the Health Technology Lab, College of Arts, Northeastern University, Boston have demonstrated that video games provide the user with physical and mental health benefits.

Video games have been the subject of scrutiny for many years as to whether or not they are healthy for the users that take part in this nostalgic activity.

Over the years, many parents and politicians have cited video games as being a catalyst for violent behavior and even attributing games such as Grand Theft Auto as the main influence in various crimes.

Obviously, people have been committing crimes for centuries, long before video games ever became part of a modern popular culture, so these arguments are flawed, to say the least.

Now, a team at the University of Boston have put forward the results from the first known randomized controlled study of certain styles of video games that suggest video games actually provide a physical and mental health benefit to the user.

“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized-controlled study demonstrating that adding narrative to AVG additively increases physical activity and enhances cognitive function in healthy, young adults.”

- Jungyeon Hwang, Ph.D., Health Technology Lab, Boston University

The study

You can read the full study published in the Nature Journal entitled Narrative and active video game in separate and additive effects of physical activity and cognitive function among young adults

AVG - Physically active Video Games
SVG - Physically stationary Video Games

“We randomly assigned young adults to one of four groups (narrative-AVG, AVG, narrative-SVG, or SVG) and had them complete sustained attention and working memory tasks before and after a 30-min experimental condition.”

“Participants in both narrative-AVG and AVG groups achieved a moderate-intensity physical activity while adding narrative to AVG resulted in higher step counts and more time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than AVG without narrative”

“Regardless of the narrative effect, participants in both AVG groups performed better on overall working memory than both SVG groups, while both AVG and SVG groups similarly achieved maximal performance in sustained attention. Working memory enhancement was positively correlated with increased heart rate.”

Are video games actually good for your physical health?

This should be a fairly obvious one and comes as no surprise, active video games such as those found on the Nintendo Wii, or Xbox One that require using a Kinect Sensor mean that the user must be actively moving in order to complete the tasks in the games. We all know physical activity is a healthy activity.

The groups played Xbox One Kinect Kung Fu!

These types of games resulted in a “moderate-intensity level of physical activity” after playing for just 30 minutes.

They also found that by playing an AVG with a narrative, increased overall activity resulting in roughly 23% more steps taken that a non-N-AVG.

“Nintendo Wii increased physical activity level by 40% more steps (compared to a non-narrative group) in overweight and obese children”

The study also found that participants of the AVG and N-AVG’s showed an increase in cognitive function when it came to post gaming cognitive task assessing working memory.

Should you allow your child to play video games?

YES! First of all, many modern games include a wide range of problem-solving tasks that require the use of working memory and cognitive function. Well developed cognitive functions are not only essential for problem-solving but also vital for a developing individual as your cognitive abilities play a key role in all aspects of life.

The types of enhanced cognitive activities can help children to increase their capacity for learning.

Can video games lead to violent behavior in young adults?

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that video games cause violent behavior in young adults. A study involving over 3000 participants earlier this year found that video games do not ‘prime’ players to behave in certain ways. The study also demonstrated that young adults can easily separate concepts found in video games from the real world.

In fact, a review carried out by the American Psychological Association in 2015 that analysed over 100 different studies into video game violence, and psychological behaviour in young adults, showed that video games do not directly lead to young adults displaying violent or anti social behavior.

The study concluded that violent behavior stems from potentially hundreds of different risk factors that young adults are exposed to in their developmental environment.

“No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior”

What about video gaming for weight loss?

Whilst studies in this area are very limited, there are plenty of studies that clearly show exercise in any form will lead to weight loss if combined with a healthy diet. You could quite easily take up physically active games on consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

All of the consoles have games that require you to be physically active in order to take part. They do this by using special sensors to track the movement of your body.

Media Resource://NATURE/41598-018-29274-0

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