Playing e-Sports: How To Protect Your Health

Six tips to help you be a healthier online gamer. 

By Sasha Gonzales        12 May 2022

Although e-sports provide hours of entertainment and fun, it’s important to understand the dangers associated with prolonged gaming.

If you’re a fan of e-sports, here’s what you should know to protect your mental and physical health while playing, including learning to set boundaries so that you can enjoy the activity safely.

1. Protect your eyes

Problem: Prolonged screen time can lead to eye strain, dry eyes and headaches. This is due to screen glare, poor overall lighting and reduced blinking, says Dr Ryan Wong, a general practitioner at OneDoctors (Holland Village) Family Clinic.

Solution: He suggests following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something 20ft (six metres) away for at least 20 seconds. Also make sure you have proper lighting in the room and consider using eye drops to lubricate and relieve dry eyes.

Consider investing in an ergonomic monitor with an adjustable height function, such as one from AOC Monitors.

SAFRA members enjoy 5% off AOC Gaming Monitors (24″ and above) with promo code AOCSSAFRA; more info at www.safra.sg/promotions/aoc-monitors

Read our tips on how to avoid eye strain.

2. Avoid musculoskeletal issues

Problem: “Common complaints like neck pain are usually related to posture while gaming,” says Dr Wong. “For example, your screen may not be at eye level and you may have to look down at the screen. Similarly, low back pain may be due to poor posture while sitting down, especially if you’re slouching. Prolonged strain on the spine may result in a degeneration of the spinal column in later stages, known as cervical and lumbar spondylosis respectively.”

Another musculoskeletal condition associated with prolonged computer use is pain, numbness or tingling in the wrists, hands and/or fingers. Dr Wong says that these symptoms are typical of carpal tunnel syndrome, where some of the nerves in the hand are pinched at the wrist and unable to function normally.

Solution: Dr Wong says to avoid being in the same position for too long and to adhere to a proper sitting posture, using an ergonomic chair and/or backrests if possible. Your screen should also be at eye level to prevent neck strain. And finally, take frequent breaks, relax your grip every so often and do stretching exercises to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you prefer to enjoy your game at a LAN gaming centre, Clique Gaming at SAFRA Jurong provides ergonomic gamer keyboards and mice, and with the free lunchtime parking at SAFRA Jurong, you can take breaks without worrying.

SAFRA members affiliated members enjoy 15% off at Clique Gaming; more info at www.safra.sg/amenities-offerings/clique-gaming

Try these easy stretching exercises and breathing exercises you can do at home.

3. Eat regular, balanced meals

Problem: Spending all day on e-sports leaves you with little to no time to exercise. This, coupled with skipping meals or relying on processed snack foods to fuel you while you play, may contribute to a decrease in total lean muscle mass and an increase in body fat percentage.

“You may not look overweight or obese but you may be metabolically abnormal,” Dr Wong explains. “This is known as ‘skinny fat’ or normal weight obesity. This predisposes a person to cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus.”

Irregular meals can also cause gastric issues, which may worsen if you rely on caffeinated energy drinks to stay alert during long hours of gaming.

Solution: Dr Wong says to limit the amount of time on e-sports and dedicate time to exercising regularly. Avoid skipping meals, limit your consumption of caffeinated beverages, and have healthy snacks on hand, such as veggie sticks and fresh fruit.

Here are some healthy eating tips to get you started.

4. Stay adequately hydrated

Problem: Due to prolonged immobility, dehydration is occasionally seen in gamers, says Dr Wong. This may lead to a potentially fatal condition called venous thromboembolism. This happens when pooling venous blood forms clots in your lower limbs; the clots then get released into the bloodstream, lodging themselves in the smaller vessels of the lungs and preventing blood flow and gas exchange.

Solution: Hydration, performing simple lower limb exercises while gaming, and taking short breaks to walk between games can all help to reduce your risk of venous thromboembolism, Dr Wong points out.

5. Safeguard your mental wellbeing

Problem: “Studies have shown a correlation between e-sports and depression, apathy, an uncooperative attitude, tension, sleep disturbances, mental distress, aggressive affect and behaviours, distress in social life, and emotional disturbances,” says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness.

“Furthermore, as e-sports are highly stimulating and competitive and require a high level of concentration and vigilance, prolonged playing may lead to your body being in a constant state of high alertness. Your body achieves this by inducing the sympathetic nervous system through the release of adrenaline. Even after your game is over, you may continue to be in this highly vigilant, ready-to-battle, and hence anxious state of mind.”

Solution: Monitor how much time you spend playing e-sports. If it’s affecting your mental wellbeing, you should cut back or stop altogether.

Dr Lim says that addiction is a reality for some players. This is characterised by a lack of self-control over e-sports. You may give more priority to it over other activities, and it may even take precedence over your interests and daily activities.

Here are some tips to boost your mental wellness.

6. Get sufficient quality sleep

Problem: Prolonged gaming may interfere with your sleep in several ways, says Dr Wong. For one, exposure to blue light from the screen may affect melatonin levels. Second, playing at odd times of the night (to participate in a game in a different time zone) may disrupt your circadian rhythm, thus affecting your sleep. Third, as gaming is a stimulating activity, you may find it hard to wind down before bedtime. Finally, drinking caffeinated drinks while gaming may contribute to insomnia.

This lack of quality sleep may leave you feeling fatigued, less alert and not able to concentrate the next day, Dr Lim says. Long-term erratic sleep habits may even result in circadian dysregulation, leading to chronic insomnia. Sleep disturbances can also trigger anxiety disorders and depression.

“Physically, a lack of sleep stresses the body and is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and a compromised immune system, leading to frequent infections,” he adds.

Solution: Dr Wong says to schedule your gaming session for a limited period, preferably well before your intended bedtime, and give yourself time to wind down. You should also minimise your intake of caffeinated beverages.

Read our tips on getting better quality sleep.

Note: Please consult your doctor if you have health concerns.

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