What are the side effects of playing video games for too long?


I’ve played video games for a long time. But now that I’m older, I’ve started to wonder, what are the side effects of playing games for too long? How does sitting on the couch, for hours on end, affect your mental and physical health?  I set out to get the answer…

What are the side effects of playing games for too long? There are a number of physical and mental side effects from playing games too long including:

  • Game addiction
  • Obesity
  • Heart problems
  • DVT
  • RSI
  • Epilepsy
  • Back problems
  • Phycological issues

We know playing video games too long can cause serious health issues. But how could you limit those health issues? I’ll look to answer this question in a lot more detail the coming section. But first up let’s take a more detailed look at the effects of playing games too long.

What are the side effects of playing video games too long?

Video games play a huge part in many of our lives.

They have become synonymous with modern living.

Regardless of where you are or what you do, games are now everywhere. They are in your pocket on your mobile phone. Under your TV on your console. And ready to be unleashed on your monster gaming PC.

Games are inescapable.

But this tsunami of gaming comes with its many problems. No greater of which is the damage gaming can do to our physical and phycological health.

Gaming, if taken to the extream, can have a massive negative impact on our bodies and mind. And this is compounded by the readily available nature of games.

You can’t escape them. Pokemon is in your pocket calling to you. It’s like asking a smoker to quit while making them to carry a packet of cigarettes around in their pocket all day.

It’s just not going to work.

The addictive nature of games means that we are spending more and more time stationary.

The natural sedentary tendency that games pull out of us is causing any number of problems.

These include:

  • Game addiction
  • Obesity
  • Heart problems
  • DVT
  • RSI
  • Epilepsy
  • And more…

Game addiction is just like any other addiction. You need your ‘fix” of gaming. Unfortunately, that fix can mean 10, 12, or even 20 hours a day sat eyes fixated on a screen.

People addicted to games will avoid eating, sleeping, exercising, and socializing, just to play.

If you can still call it play…

And addiction gives rise to a mountain of other problems.

Obesity is rampant throughout the western world and gaming is compounding that problem.

Every year the population is getting fatter.

In response to this we are sitting down more, eating more and moving less. It’s a recipe – pardon the pun – for a worldwide health disaster. And it’s largely caused by, you guessed it, playing video games too long.

And that’s just the start of our gaming induced problems. Heart disease, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Repetitive Strain Injury all rear their ugly, and even deadly, heads because of our addition to games.

People have even been known to die from heart failure while playing games too long.

Epilepsy, though not caused by computer games can be triggered from excessive consumption of games.

And don’t even get me started on back problems: something I personally suffer from.

Being hunched over your controller playing video games 6 hours a day may seem okay now. But when you’re 45 years old and you can’t straighten your back up, you’ll wish you spent more time outside kicking footballs. Instead of kicking virtual balls in Fifa.

Fortunately, it not all doom and gloom. There are some simple tactics you can use to avoid all the above issues, so you can play games as much as you want while staying healthy and happy.

Let’s take a look at a few of them in the next section.

How can I limit the negative effects of gaming?

Playing games is fun.

But the asssiated health problems can be a nightmare.

Here are a few simple methods to avoid gaming induced health hazards and enjoy the hobby.

Take regular breaks

Taking regular breaks is easily the most powerful way to avoid video game related health issues.

Every 45 minutes, you should get up from the couch and be active for 15 minutes. To make sure you do take a break, set a timer on your phone for 45 minutes. When it chimes, get up and move for 15 minutes. Here are a few ideas to keep you active in your 15 minute windows:

  • Walk around the house
  • Walk up and down the stairs
  • Jog on the spot to your favourite dance music
  • Take a short walk outside around the block
  • Do some light weights while standing
  • Buy and get on a stationary bike and blast it for 5 minutes
  • Do a walking meditation
  • A short session of Yoga streches
  • Get another exercise machine and hit it for 10 minutes

If you do any of the exercises above, you’ll not only avoid gaming related health issues, but help create a better, fitter you.

Don’t install games on your mobile phone and set a timer

If you want to avoid possible addiction to gaming, don’t install games on your mobile phone.

The reason:

They are too easy to access.

Just like the recovering alcoholic hiding gin in the cupboard, you need to dump the games that are within easy reach. You need to make it hard for yourself to get access to games.  

Limit your gaming to playing on a console or PC. That way you actually have to set aside time to play them.

Also, you should limit how much time you spend playing games. Set another timer for 3 hours. Once the timer has chimed, finish what you’re doing and exit the game.

Limiting your time will also help you focus on what you need to actually do in your game. As sad as this will sound, I had a limit of only one hour a day to play through the Legend of Zelda on the Switch.

Instead of ruining my enjoyment of the game, it helped increase it.

Why?

Because it focused me.

I went into every gaming session with a plan of what I wanted to accomplish, and I’d have a plan of what I’d want to accomplish next time I’d play. Having this direction meant I always had little in-game goals to aim for. It helped me avoid binge playing the game.

Something that’s very easy to do with open world games like Zelda.

Buy the right equipment

Another thing you can do to help avoid health problems when playing games is to buy the right equipment.

At the very least, you should have a dedicated gaming chair that offers support and stops you from slouching. Also, it should have high-quality foam on the seat padding to help take the pressure off the veins and nerves in your upper legs.

Another bit of equipment to keep an eye open for is wrist rests. Yes, you know the type I’m talking about… the floppy silicon kind that you have in the office.

They may look stupid – ok, they look really stupid – but they take a huge amount of pressure off your shoulders and wrists. Letting you game longer without pain.

Play active games

Finally, one of the best ways to avoid negative health issues while gaming is to play active games.

But what is an active game?

An active game is any game that you play standing up and part of the gameplay involves movement to control the action.

Examples include:

  • Wii Fit (Wii)
  • Fitness boxing (Switch)
  • Knockout Kings (PC PS4)
  • Zwift (PC)
  • Dance Dance Revolution
  • And many more.

Introducing some active games into your hobby will go a long way to staving off unwanted health issues.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest, gaming is huge fun. But unfortunately, playing too long can have a seriously bad effect of your short and long term health.

From heart problems to obesity, there are plenty of health issues waiting to snare the unmoving gamer.

Fortunately, there are many ways to counteract side effects of gaming. You can avoid installing games on your mobile phone.

You could take 15 minutes breaks every hour and do something physical.

You could buy the active game Dance Dance Revolution and bust some moves for an hour. You’ll be shocked at how much of a good work out it is!

Or just do the right thing and buy an awesome gaming chair.

Regardless of what you do, you can play your games happily knowing that there are plenty of ways to avoid unwanted health issues.

So pick one of the ideas above and use it in your life now.

Your body and mind won’t regret it.

Related Questions

If I feel like I’m addicted to gaming what can I do? If you feel like you’re addicted to gaming, you should seek help. Take a look at Video Game Quitters to start getting the help you need.  

Are some games good for your health? Yes, some games are great for your health. I call these active games. Think Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution and Zumba Fitness.

Are there any ways to help me avoid getting injuries while playing games other than taking breaks? Taking regular breaks is the best way to avoid game related health issues. However, injuries like RSI or back problems can be avoided with the right seating equipment (See our recommendations page for gaming equipment that’ll help you through those lengthy gaming sessions).

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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