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Can gaming really keep you healthy online?

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Amazingly to some, both live and online video games are being promoted as a lifestyle activity to keep the body fit. While modern attitudes towards gaming and gamers can, on the whole, be pretty skeptical (particularly when compared to healthy sporting games and other active pursuits), the truth can be rather different. Taking everything into account, games-specifically brain-training ones-can be successful in promoting human mental fitness.

People playing these games should, by design, get better at the various tasks they are required to perform while playing. But do these games actually improve users' overall brain skills, such as attention, memory, use of language, and the ability to navigate? Well, at first glance, it looks as though just playing concentration-based computer games won't help you put names to faces and remember appointments, but they can still provide a boost to your memory, which is obviously a good thing.

Exercise is key

Much like your body does, your brain needs regular exercise in order to remain sharp and in peak condition. Downtime and rest are critical, too. Short naps are said to reduce stress in between exercises. Good workouts in creative thinking and problem solving will all help to stretch and exercise your brain. However, be sure to pick an activity you enjoy. This could be Sudoku, chess, doing crossword puzzles, reading, and/or playing cards, all of which are pastimes that can now be undertaken online.

Video games have even been proven to be therapeutic for chronic illnesses such as autism, depression, and Parkinson's disease. According to studies, people who played certain games showed improvement in their resilience and fighting spirit. This is thanks, in part, to games' reward systems, which require players to utilize their cognitive mechanisms. The resulting positive emotions help people to cope with the daily tests that their illnesses challenge them with.

The reduction of stress

Video games are well-known to reduce stress and depression. Indeed, gamers that suffer from mental health issues such as these get to use games as outlets through which to vent all of their frustrations and aggression. Online games don't just provide relief from emotional pain, but they can also provide help for those suffering from actual, physical pain. How? By getting their mind to focus elsewhere. They can also improve your vision, provided that your body is perfectly positioned relative to the screen. Those who suffer from cataracts can improve their vision by playing first-person shooter games, while other games are believed to slow the aging process.

There are even some people who have found hope online while dealing with the very worst that life could have dealt them-people like Damon Ferrante. In 2011, at the age of 45, Ferrante (who hails from New Jersey) was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an incurable form of cancer. Fortunately, Ferrante found a way to alleviate the pain and escape the stress by taking up online poker. Not only has he used the pastime to cope with his condition, but he has also won more than $48,000 in prize money from the game.

So, while there are plenty of people out there who are ready to blame online and offline video games for all of our health failings (and for all of society's ills, for that matter), when you really look at it, the truth can be very, very different indeed.

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Jun 19, 2018 12:05 PM EDT

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