Believe It or Not, Gaming Is NOT Considered A Form of Exercise

As gamers, we sometimes forget we need actual exercise in our lives to stay healthy. I should know. I don't exercise.
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One year ago my second daughter, Macy, was born. Four months prior to that I ran a marathon. For about 15 years before that, I was overweight. Thankfully, a couple years ago I made the choice to start taking better care of myself, both to improve my quality of life and to be a better role model for my family. I trained for the marathon (during which I actually collapsed from exhaustion about a half mile from my home near the end of a 20-mile training run), lost a bunch of weight, and made a commitment to get healthy. 

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Fortunately, I completed the marathon without dying or puking or having my shorts fall down (something I actually had a nightmare about the night before the race). Unfortunately, that would be the last day I would run.

As a gamer, I don’t get outside as much as I should. Even when I was training for my marathon, I found myself battling with the issue of, “If I go for a run tonight, I won’t be able to play Skyrim.” More often than not, I was able to drag myself out for a run, and still manage to fit in an hour or so of Skyrim before going to bed. Not a bad compromise. But after I finished that marathon, I decided I’d earned a break, so I took a month off. Then Max Payne 3 came out… then Spec Ops: The Line came out… and then Macy was born, and as hard as I tried to find time (and energy) to go for a run with two children in the house, I just couldn’t make it happen. 

Making Gaming the Excuse

I talked myself into believing that I was making a slight sacrifice to my health in order to further my writing career. “I have to play the latest games in order to be able to intelligently write and talk about them, right?” While true, I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing my health or my relationships with my family in order to make it happen.

Yep, that’s me. The Captain.

I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until this weekend when my family and I participated in a 5K charity run. I’ve had a messed up back for about four weeks now, and while I’m not exactly sure how I hurt it, I’m pretty sure my terrible health contributed at least a little bit. But we decided to just walk the race, as there were other families participating and it was no big deal. So off we went, pushing our pace a little bit (as well as pushing two kids in the stroller), but it was nothing we couldn’t handle. 

After about a mile I told my wife, “I think I can run.” So we started jogging, and it felt pretty good. Even with a terribly sore back, it felt good to be using my feet again for exercise, rather than for making sure my footrest doesn’t float away. We slowed to a walk again after a little while, but I felt good. I felt like I could get my old legs and body back in no time, and today was going to be the catalyst.

Paying the Price

We ran a few more times during the race, but there was one stretch where I really pushed it. I was pushing both kids and took off on a run, and I went much harder than I should have. I didn’t feel it right then, but later that night, and even now, I am in terrible pain. Not because I have a bad back, and not because I pushed myself too hard, but because I let myself go so much over the last 16 months. I put gaming over my health, and that’s a game I’ll never win.

If only all running involved collecting gold rings…

Let this be a lesson to all you gamers out there. When those old video game manuals used to say you should take breaks every hour, they actually meant it. Take a break to go for a walk. Go for a run. Jump on a trampoline. Play with your kids. Don’t let video games define you to a point where you are nothing BUT video games. Gaming is big for all of us, of course, but we can’t let it be all that we are.

If you have kids, be a role model to them. If you ARE a kid, know that you have a lot of life left to live, and games will always be there, but your health won’t. If you are neither of those things, then the advice is the same. Life moves fast, but our games will always be there. Be proactive about your health, and hopefully you can avoid health problems later on. 

You can always pause your games, but life will just pass you by. Take it from me, and don’t let that happen.

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Brian Armstrong
Proud gamer parent and freelance journalist (and fundraiser). I cover anything and everything that's interesting about the gaming industry, and even some stuff that isn't so interesting.