We all know that it is important to exercise both the mind and the body. In recent years, researchers have discovered a surprising number of benefits to playing video games. These games have proved to be a fun and effective way to keep physically and mentally fit.
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Physical Benefits of Playing Video Games as a Senior
Many people find that Nintendo's Wii and Switch gaming systems are an effective form of exercise, especially for seniors. The Wii controller uses arm and body movements to control games, which offers cardiovascular exercise. It can also improve balance. In a 2013 study, the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that balance training using Wii Fit may be a fun way for older adults to improve their balance.
Playing video games can help with balance in other ways. Studies show that those who played brain-training video games had better balance than those who did not.
It's no surprise that playing video games improves the hand-eye coordination, but they have also been shown to improve hand mobility for those who suffer from arthritis or similar pain.
The theory is that the improved cognition led to better walking and motor skills.
You may be concerned that, as your mother always said, sitting too close to the television screen may hurt your eyes, but actually, video games may improve your vision. A study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario in 2012 showed that games such as Halo or Call of Duty may improve vision in older adults with cataracts. Games such as these involve rapid eye movements and close attention, which helps with visual tracking and interpreting data.
Mental Benefits of Playing Video Games
Video games can also slow or reverse some of the mental signs of aging. Playing complex strategy video games, such as World of Warcraft, can improve your cognitive abilities. Studies showed this was especially true for those who scored low in cognitive skills before playing the game. Frequent video gaming exercises the short-term memory.
It also requires players to be mentally quick and flexible, and to use abstract reasoning. Players must keep track of tasks and information, often at the same time. If you keep playing the game and trying to improve, then you are learning, which stimulates the brain.
Psychological Benefits for Seniors
Seniors are often vulnerable to psychological problems, such as depression. Risks associated with depression include social withdrawal and isolation. Along with the other health benefits, video games are a fun and stimulating way to reduce these risks. Research shows that playing video games may have many emotional benefits for older adults. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Multi-player games provide social engagement. Games such as the 2009 music video game The Beatles: Rock Band is geared towards baby boomers.
There is also a trend towards inter-generational games. These foster connections between seniors and their children and grandchildren. People who maintain those social connections tend to be happier and have higher levels of emotional well-being.
Entertainment and Accessibility
Games can be obtained and played online or on your phone. If you choose to buy a computer or console, many refurbished models of computers and gaming consoles are available at bargain prices. Some competitive multiplayer games function a little like sports. This means that you will continue to play and improve over time. If you enjoy gaming and find it beneficial, chances are you will spend many hours playing games. You get a lot of entertainment for a small investment.
Experts agree that there are many benefits to the health and wellness of older game players. But regardless of your health, you can always play for the same reason the kids do—just for fun.