By Renee’ Fulkerson
When most folks think of injuries gaming is not the first activity that would come to mind.
Gaming is a very hot topic in today’s world and also in my household. The topic of gaming contains many layers of knowledge, judgment and opinions and yet little research has been done to determine the long term effects, if any; on our mind, body and spirit.
What is Gaming? Definition from Techopedia – Gaming refers to playing electronic games, whether through consoles, computers, mobile phones or another medium altogether. Gaming is a nuanced term that suggests regular gameplay, possibly as a hobby or competitive sport.
I myself, am like many other parents today navigating this new and very different world of online gaming. My biggest concern is poor posture however, equally important is eye strain, repetitive strain issues and lack of movement. I often remind my 16 year old son to find balance between gaming and physical activity with one being a regular YogAlign practice.
First of all let’s take a look at a typical gaming posture below:
To the naked eye we can visually see the forward curving of the spine – backline of the body, shaping into a C formation. The shoulders are also rolled forward due to the way in this picture and with most gaming mouse are used in relation to the hand, wrist and arm position. The head, neck and chin are jutted forward as the eyes are pulling the head closer to the screen. Some of the things the naked eye may not be able to see is the tightening and clenching of the jaw and teeth (as the gaming becomes more intense or gamer becomes more irritated). As the spine – backline of the body curves forward into a C, the frontline of the body becomes collapsed. The chest, diaphragm and organs of the frontline are being squeezed making it difficult to take a full inhale and exhale (breathing becomes shallow). While the gamer sits for long periods of time daily some muscle groups are becoming shorter and tighter making other muscle groups longer, stretched out and tired. The body is a continuum and can only be affected as a whole not in pieces as some might believe.
We are just scratching the surface here in regard to the intricacy of the human anatomy while sitting and it’s wear and tear on the body, when done on a regular basis for long periods of time.
I found that once I transitioned my yoga practice to YogAlign I learned and became more aware of the intracicies in regard to human anatomy, movement and function. Not only during my YogAlign practice, but in mine and my families everyday life (including my sons gaming posture and habits).
How can gamers best prevent injuries?
Let’s go back to the ergonomics – at a very basic level. “Ergonomics”, as defined by the International Ergonomics Association, is “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and over all system of performance”.
Ergonomics relating to gaming explains how players interact with their hardwares and tools. Gaming products should be designed to support the natural posture of the body and the repetitive movements of the body that are necessary to operate them. Shoulder, wrist arm position, seating posture and playing style all come into effect when it comes to ergonomics in gaming. Self control, limiting the amount of time playing for pleasure or for competition daily and days weekly can be helpful in preventing injuries. Movement before, and after gaming is key especially movement that re-wires the brain from poor posture habits to proper posture habits.
Here are a few ergonomic gaming tools I have come across:
An ergonomic mouse that better fits the user’s hand when scrolling and clicking.
Safety glasses designed to eliminate eye strain and block a computer’s blue light.
Helps players keep an ergonmic posture from their couch or bed by not having to rest their keyboard on their lap.
Whether you sit in an office staring at a computer all day or sit gaming for hours we all need to get up and move. So, next time you sit for an extended period of time, check in with your body, breath and ask yourself:
- How long has it been since I stood up, stretched and maybe walked around a bit?
Sitting all day is bad for your health – A University of Waterloo professor says his research shows that people should be standing for at least 30 minutes per hour to get health benefits.
- Do my eyes feel strained and maybe even feel a slight head ache coming on
Extended computer use or inadequate or excessive lighting may cause eye strain.
- When was the last time I had a drink of water or a healthy snack?
There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day. Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.
- Am I sitting closer to the edge of my chair to allow by spine to lengthen?
Sit up at the end of your chair with your back straight and your shoulders blades down, all three natural back curves (cervical, lumbar and thoracic) should be present while sitting. (if possible get your hips above your knees).
- Are my shoulder blades relaxed down my back or creeping up to my ears?
Tight shoulders can be caused by sitting for extended periods causing pain or stiffness in your neck, back and upper body.
- Am I clenching my teeth and tightening my jaw?
Stress or anxiety can cause the muscles in the jaw to tighten. A person may clench their jaw or grind their teeth without even noticing it.
- Am I able to take a full inhale an exhale from my diaphragm?
On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.
Believe or Not, it takes more precious life force energy in our everyday lives and activities to have poor posture than it does to have proper posture.
My motto “sit up and cheer up, get up stand up – for your life”.