Gamer Health: 10 Tips For Keeping Your Competitive Edge

10 doctor-recommended tips for keeping your fingers, wrists, elbows, and eyes in top form for gaming.

While the myth of the basement-dwelling neckbeard has largely been debunked as a very small percentage rather than the norm in gamer culture, staying fit and healthy is still not exactly synonymous with couch potato-ing and twice-weekly raid nights. 

Hand/Wrist Health

What will come as no surprise to most readers is that many gamers suffer from repetitive stress issues (e.g. carpal tunnel and wrist tendonitis). Dr. Levi Harrison, "the Gamer's Doctor," is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand/wrist issues. Here are a few of his simple exercises for improving and maintaining hand, wrist, and elbow health.

"As a gamer, it’s important to do these exercises not only for injury prevention, but also increase your actions per minute, your speed, your efficiency, your winning time, and to ensure you have a long, successful gaming career."

1.  Take 5 minutes every 60 minutes to flex your fingers.

  • Do this by making a full fist, then spreading open all your fingers as wide as possible.
  • The suggested number is 20 repetitions every 60 minutes. 
  • Shake out your hands, wrist, and elbows during this break, and also throughout the day.

2. Do gliding exercises on the wrist during a 60 second break.

  • A demonstration video can be found here
  • These are done to increase the flexibility of your hands and to minimize the progression and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which include numbness, lack of strength, and lack of dexterity in your hands.

3. Do Nirschl exercises to help stretch out the extensor muscles of the elbow and wrist. 

  • A demonstration video can be found here.
  • This can help prevent “Tennis Elbow,” which is not just a problem for tennis players and is a real risk for active gamers.

4. Do blocking exercises when taking a break. 

  • A demonstration video can be found here
  • These assist in the movement of the joints in your fingers and thumbs.

5. Massage your fingers, wrists, and elbows regularly throughout the day.

  • This should be done even when you're not gaming.
  • Take especial care with your thumb, which is responsible for over 42^ of all functional motion in your hand while gaming.
  • Before you start gaming, immerse your hands and wrists in warm water for 3-5 minutes which will also help soothe your joints. 

Dr. Harrison completed his orthopedic residency in Los Angeles, where he now resides and currently practices. In addition to being an avid sports enthusiast, fitness expert, motivational speaker and philanthropist, he hosts a weekly radio show on LA Talk radio.

Eye Health

With the increasing proliferation and popularity of electronic devices, it has been some time since gaming has been restricted to the console or the PC. Nowadays, the mobile market has hit a boom, and smartphones and tablets are on the rise.

And yet with smaller screens held closer to your eyes comes greater risks of eye strain through constant use. In order to reduce visual strain and stress on your eyes, Dr. Michael Wu, O.D. has a few tips to help keep your eyes in top shape while gaming - whether it's Angry Birds or Arkham Knight.

"To maintain general eye health and reduce eye strain while gaming, remember the 20-20-20 rule. It is quick, easy, and effective." 
- Dr. Michael Wu, Optometrist

1. Use the 20-20-20 rule.

  • Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen to something 20 feet away for ~20 seconds.
  • This will help to help reduce the potential for eye strain caused by staring at something up close for a prolonged period of time.

2. Use anti-reflective coating.

  • For those of you who wear glasses, proper anti-reflective coating with blue blockers will help minimize the glare and reflections that are bouncing back into the eye.
  • With the increase in electronic device use, your eyes are exposed to more blue wavelengths which have been shown to cause more eye strain than other wavelengths. 
  • Consider using f.lux, which dims your monitors but also uses warming filters for less stressful viewing. 

3. Don't game in the dark.

  • The reason is due to the difference in your screen brightness compared to the ambient room light - when you have a bright light source in a dark room, there is a greater chance of glare
  • This can be fixed by dimming your monitors or turning on the lights.

4. Blink more and use artificial tears.

  • While gaming you will probably notice a tendency to stare, thereby increasing your chances of dryness. 
  • Keep artificial tears like Blink, Systane, and Refresh on hand to use as needed when your eyes are feeling dry.
  • Try to avoid eye drops from brands like Visine which contain vasal constrictors. These shrink the blood vessels in your eyes which will cosmetically and temporarily reduce visible redness in the eye, but do not actually combat the dryness issue. 

5. Keep screens as far away from you as possible.

  • PC screens should be at least an arm's distance away. Try to keep it a few inches lower than your direct line of sight in order to decrease neck strain.
  • For handheld devices, these should be held ~ 16-18 inches away.
  • The closer the screen is, the more your eyes need to strain to focus properly.

Dr. Wu has been practicing optometry since 2006 and currently serves on the board of directors for the Ontario Association of Optometrists.

Featured Columnist

Avid PC gamer and long-time console lover. I enjoy sneaking, stealing everything not nailed down, and shooting zombies in the face. I'm also a cat.

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Published Jun. 4th 2014
  • Vitality For Gamers
    Nice article; it is great to see the Gamer Lifestyle moving in a healthier direction...
  • Ryan "August" Christensen
    Contributor
    This is a great piece. I followed very bad practices while gaming during my teenage years. Gaming in the dark while sitting close to the screen were my two main vices.

    I'm more mindfull of my gaming nowadays, since I do not want my children to emulate me once they're old enough to pick up a controller.

    Hopefully this will help highlight the importance of ergonomic gaming.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Correspondent
    You rock, Stephanie! Thanks for this. =) Seen similar articles before but it's always nice to be reminded.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    Same to you! :) And yeah, they're so easy to learn but they can be so easy to forget too...
  • Lacey_6683
    Contributor
    Thank you for the tips. I especially like 1&2. Very useful exercises and easy to do.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    Yes, I like them for that reason - don't even have to leave your desk for most of 'em. :)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Great stuff. Too many people have no idea about any of this stuff, and it's all very important. Those of us who have been playing for years and are approaching middle age can attest to the importance of such steps.

    I hope everyone reads this and practices safe gaming. Take it from someone with chronically tired eyes.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you! And I understand a lot of people have Dry Eye Syndrome, especially over 40. Depending on how bad it gets - humidifiers, artificial tears, hot compresses, no fans blowing in your face, and definitely remembering to blink more can all help as well. :)
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Oh, it's not dry eyes I suffer from. My eyes are never dry.

    They get severely strained, which leads to bad headaches. It's a very different thing. :)
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    Gotcha. Still fun. :(

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