Your guide to healthy gaming
You’re a gamer, and the grind is constant. You’re playing for your stream, or to continue to improve your skill, going at it alone or practicing with your team. Regardless, you’re gaming a lot.
The gaming grind is taxing, and the long hours increase the strain on your body from prolonged sitting and repetitive movements using mouse & keyboard or a console controller. Fortunately, we’re here to help you get through the grind and decrease your risk for aches, pains, and injuries.
Below is a guide to healthy gaming. Following this protocol will help keep you feeling great, and it may even improve your gameplay.
Many people still believe warm-ups include static stretching (or stretch & hold positions) to “get loose” before doing any type of physical activity. However, static stretching will decrease your performance.
That’s right—holding stretches prior to (or even during) gaming may decrease muscle activation and contraction speed making you slower.
Latency for any reason is a nightmare, but the good news is that you can prevent movement latency simply by following a dynamic warm-up routine.
Our gamer warm-up is a routine consisting of dynamic movements that prepare your body for gaming—specifically your fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, and even your eyes!
There are 10 movements to warm up your hands and 3 eye movements to warm up the small muscles that control your eyes. You can follow the entire routine below, or visit our warm-up page for the written script.
Posture & ergonomics
Gaming for hours means sitting for hours, and sitting increases your risk for postural aches and pains. Prolonged sitting over time increases your risk for muscular imbalance and joint degeneration of the hips, spine, and shoulders.
However, you can effectively reduce the risk for all these issues by correcting your posture—sitting upright and not leaning forward, keeping your shoulders back and down, and keeping your head back with your chin tucked.
Posture is how you carry your body while sitting or standing; ergonomics has more to do with comfort and efficiency. You’ll notice advertisements bragging about “ergonomic design” for products like gamer chairs.
In following the ergonomic design, it is important to set the arms of your gamer chair just high enough to let your forearms rest gently when your arms are resting at your side and your elbows are bent 90 degrees.
An alternative is to rest your forearms on your thighs or computer desk. Either way, do not compromise your posture by leaning forward!
It is also incredibly important to ensure there is no pressure on the inside of your elbow (or the inside of your forearm just below the elbow)—think funny bone.
This region is where the ulnar nerve travels, and pressure in this area may cause cubital tunnel syndrome—a nerve impingement that causes pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the pinky side of the forearm, hand, and ring/pinky fingers.
Healthy gaming includes taking breaks!
One great way to prevent injury, aches, and pains is to take breaks and perform antagonist movements; in other words, do the opposite of what you do while gaming.
For example, you sit still when you game—so stand up and move. Below is a list of antagonist movements to appropriately break apart your grind.
Also, remember that static stretching reduces performance! Holding a stretch will make your muscles slower which can negatively affect your gameplay.
If you feel like your muscles are tight after a game, try these tips instead of stretching your muscles and thereby decreasing your finger speed.
Every 15-20 minutes, perform these actions
While gaming: your eyes only focus on the monitor approximately 20-24 inches from your face.
Take a break: look beyond your monitor and look all around with just your eyes. Focus on different objects away from you and around you while you perform the rest of this list.
While gaming: you’re sitting still.
Take a break: stand up and move around—any way you choose. You don’t even need to walk away from the setup; for example, simply stand up and shuffle your feet!
While gaming: your head & neck don’t move.
Take a break: nod your head all the way back-and-forth 3 times, turn your head all the way left-to-right 3 times, and side bend your neck all the way back-and-forth 3 times.
While gaming: you won’t blink much—sometimes not at all.
Take a break: blink! Blink your eyes firmly 5-10 times between games to make sure your eyes won’t dry out and begin to burn.
Another movement that is helpful to relieve postural tension is called Bruegger’s position:
- Stand upright and tuck your chin back (shift your head over your shoulders without tilting your head back).
- With your hands at your sides, turn your palms to face forward.
- Pull your shoulder blades back towards each other and pull them downward (depress your shoulders instead of shrugging).
- Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and relax
- Repeat this movement 3-5 times.
Remember to look all around. If you have some extra time, this is an opportunity to perform the three eye exercises from the Gamer Warm-up.
And remember, DO NOT STATIC STRETCH!
Specific to PC gamers…
While gaming: your hands and fingers perform extension more often while lifting your fingers off the keyboard and mouse.
Take a break: make a fist and flex your wrists—palms towards your forearm. Do not forcefully open your hand into extension. Repeat this movement 5-10 times.
Specific to console gamers…
While gaming: your thumbs are pressing downward to move the joysticks, to crouch, and to aim.
Take a break: extend your thumbs; think of exaggerating a thumbs-up motion. Between each thumbs-up, relax your thumb. Do not squeeze or press it back down. Repeat this movement 5-10 times.
While gaming: you’re gripping a controller and flexing (closing) your fingers down onto the triggers or paddles if you use them.
Take a break: turn your palms up, open your hands as wide as you can, and then relax; do not close your fist again. Repeat this movement 5-10 times.
While gaming: if you use the claw technique…
Take a break: press your palms and fingers together. Separate your index fingers as far as you can, then return to the center. Repeat this movement 10 times (see “Palms together, single finger extension” on the Gamer Warm-up).
The day is over—now’s the time to stretch…
So, you’re finally done gaming. You’ve completed the day, and you won’t be gaming again until tomorrow or later. Now is the time for static stretching.
Our gamer stretches is a stretch routine to assist in the prevention of aches, pains, and injuries that gamers may face.
Following physical activity, stretching may increase range of motion and release chronic tension in muscles. Only perform static stretching when you’re done with gaming so you don’t negatively affect your performance.
There are 7 stretches included for the muscles of your fingers, hands, and wrists. You can follow the entire routine below, or visit the stretches page for the written script.
The gaming grind should NOT be painful
The vast majority aches, pains, and ailments experienced by gamers are in the category of repetitive strain injuries. The name suggests these issues are simply caused by doing something too frequently, but that’s not the case.
Repetitive strain injuries occur due to an imbalance, and this imbalance occurs in two ways.
Agonist vs. antagonist in PC gaming
The position of the hands will be neutral or into extension, and the more forceful movements performed in PC gaming are also in extension—lifting the fingers off the keyboard or mouse.
The position of the hands and fingers on the mouse & keyboard does not allow for significant flexion of the fingers or wrists.
Agonist vs. antagonist in console gaming
Nearly every movement in console gaming includes flexion of the hand and fingers—think closing your hand or making a fist.
Console gamers flex their thumbs onto the joysticks, flex their fingers onto triggers and bumpers, and flex their fingers to grip the controller. There is no significant extension or opening of the fingers or hand when playing with a console controller.
Shortening vs. lengthening
There are 2 major phases of muscle contraction during exercise or other intense physical activity. Concentric contraction is the shortening of a muscle against resistance (think of raising the weight on any dumbbell or barbell exercise).
Eccentric contraction is the lengthening of a muscle against resistance (think of lowering the weight on any dumbbell or barbell exercise).
In gaming—both PC and console, the muscles of the fingers, hands, and wrists are never worked in eccentric contraction. Performing an appropriate stretch routine after gaming may counter the effects of repetitive muscle shortening during console gaming and help prevent these injuries.
Gaming should never be painful—even when you’re on your most intense grind and the hours are piling up. Following the steps in this post will effectively decrease your risk for repetitive strain injuries and other common ailments in gaming.
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