By Renee’ Fulkerson
When most folks think of injuries, gaming is not the first activity that would come to mind. Gaming is a hot topic in today’s world and also in my household. The subject of gaming contains many layers of knowledge, judgment, and opinions. Yet little research has been done to determine the long-term effects if, any? On our mind, body, and spirit.
What is Gaming? The definition is 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 am like many other parents today impacted by this new and very different world of online gaming. My biggest concern is poor posture but, equally important is eye strain, repetitive strain issues, and lack of movement. I often remind my 16-year-old son to find the balance between gaming and physical activity. One being 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 rolled forward due to the way (in this picture) most gaming mouses put the hand, wrist, and arm position. The head, neck, and chin are forward. Meanwhile, the eyes are drawing the head to the screen. Some of the issues you may not be seeing. Are the tightening and clenching of the jaw and teeth. (as the gaming becomes more intense or the gamer becomes more irritated). As the spine – backline of the body curves forward into a C, and the frontline becomes collapsed. The chest, diaphragm, and organs of the frontline are becoming squeezed. Making it difficult to take a full inhale and exhale (breathing becomes shallow). While the gamer sits for long periods daily, some muscle groups are becoming shorter and tighter. Forcing the other muscle groups to get longer stretched out and tired. The body is a continuum and can only be affected as a whole and not in pieces, as some might believe.
We are just scratching the surface here regarding the intricacy of the human anatomy while sitting and it’s wear and tear on the body when done regularly for long periods. I found that once I transitioned my yoga practice to YogAlign, I learned and became more aware of the intricacies regarding human anatomy, movement, and function. I noticed this not only during my YogAlign practice but in my and my family’s everyday life (including my son’s gaming posture and habits).
How can gamers best prevent injuries?
Let’s go back to the ergonomics – at a 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 to optimize human well-being and overall system of performance.”
Ergonomics relating to gaming explains how players interact with their hardware and tools. Gaming products do not 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 competition daily and days weekly, can help prevent injuries. It is oh so important to move your body before, during, and after gaming. 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:
Logitech An ergonomic mouse that better fits the user’s hand when scrolling and clicking.
Gunnar Opticks Safety glasses may eliminate eye strain and block a computer’s blue light.
Couch-master Cycon that Helps players keep an ergonomic posture from their couch or bed by not resting 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, 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 not beneficial 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 headache 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. That is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.
- Am I sitting closer to the edge of my chair to allow my spine to lengthen?
Sit up at the end of your chair with your back straight and your shoulders blades down, and all three natural back curves (cervical, lumbar and thoracic) should be present while sitting. (if you can 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 and exhale from my diaphragm?
On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. That means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.
Believe it 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.”