The Unexpected Health Benefits Of Playing Video Games

Life has a funny way of getting in the way of our health goals; there never seems to be enough time or motivation. Consequently, achieving our mental and physical goals can begin to seem more and more impossible.

But what if video games could help with this lapse in progress? The computer, video, and mobile gaming industry is as massive as it is varied. Even if you’ve never considered yourself a “gamer,” there’s likely an entire category of games that would cater to your specific interests and preferences. 

And while you certainly can use games simply as an entertaining way of passing the time, they also have the potential to help us reach our physical and mental wellness goals. Here’s how.

Stressed, Anxious, Or Overworked? Try Cozy Gaming

3D illustration of woman using laptop on couch with cat, whimsical design details surrounding living room space

On the opposite end of the spectrum from prevailingly popular, intense, violent video games is the concept of “cozy gaming.” wrote that “the essential nature of cozy gaming is that of helping other people through non-violent means, often by nurture and generosity. Self-expression is core to the games’ progression goals, which tend to be open-ended.”

This genre can trace its roots all the way back to a 1985 game called “Little Computer People” and Natsume’s “Harvest Moon,” which came out a little over a decade before “Farmville” took our Facebook feeds by storm in 2009. More recently, “Animal Crossing” and “Stardew Valley” cemented their place as cozy game staples. 

By offering a non-threatening, low-stakes environment to explore and enjoy, cozy games offer a much-needed respite from the stress and anxiety of everyday life. And considering just how much of our physical health is related to our stress levels, these calming games offer dual benefits for both mental and physical wellness. 

Cozy gaming is a great way to decompress, de-stress, enjoy a feeling of community, and explore one’s curiosities in a safe, comfortable setting. As gaming writer Melissa Brinks wrote for Forbes, cozy gaming eliminates the need for gamers to meet their characters’ most basic needs (shelter, thirst, hunger, and safety), leaving them with a sense of “connectedness, self-reflection, and mastery.”

TheGamer listed some of the best cozy games as “Unpacking,” “Spiritfarer,” and, of course, the wildly popular and equally cute “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

Want To Exercise But Hate The Gym? Try This Instead

Woman in VR headset and remote controls dances while virtual character that looks like her imitates moves
(Jacob Lund/

Physical fitness goals can be particularly difficult to attain for a number of reasons—but working out doesn’t have to suck, we promise. Remember when everyone and their grandma was playing either “Wii Fit” or “Dance Dance Revolution?” Well, those types of games haven’t gone anywhere, and they’re even better now.

The rise of virtual reality gaming has brought about even more immersive exercise experiences, from the music-driven “Beat Saber” to the sci-fi obstacle courses in “Sprint Vector.” And yes, “Just Dance” is still a thing (and just as fun as ever). For some individuals, these games can be an even better option than regular exercise.

A March 2019 press release published in Lifespan covered the results of a study led by behavioral scientists from The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Rhode Island. The study itself had sedentary individuals participate in either traditional exercise or video games that involved moderate-to-intense aerobic activity.

“People who played the physically active video games continued to do more exercise than the standard group because they got more enjoyment, better management of stress and depressive symptoms, felt more engaged in physical activity, and were more confident about their ability to exercise than people doing standard exercise,” reported Dr. Beth Bock, the study’s lead scientist.

TheGamer cited “Nintendo Switch Sports,” “Zumba Fitness: World Party,” and “Ring Fit Adventure” as some of the best fitness video games of all time. “Ring Fit Adventure” in particular was difficult to find at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Nintendo Switch game becoming a popular way of working out during lockdown.

Get The Most Out Of Your Gaming

According to FinancesOnline, 64% of U.S. adults play video games on a regular basis. And despite common stereotypes of gamers being that of 20-something, Dorito-eating dude-bros, gaming is becoming increasingly popular with women at many stages of life.

Whether you’re a pro gamer or a total video game novice, finding ways to use games to your advantage is a fun, highly motivational way to reach your overall wellness goals. After all, you’re the main character of your own life. So what’s stopping you from taking the controls and completing your personal objectives?

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