Beyond exergaming: the positive effects of gaming on your brain

Video games are a great tool for training your brain and body.

November 17, 2022

Gaming has come a long way over the past four decades and, in the more recent years, has established itself as a pillar of pop culture and entertainment.

As members of the Millennial and Gen Z generations grow up, we are now living in an age where many of today’s adults grew up with video games. They became a pillar of our childhood development and were carried into our adolescence and adulthood. However, there's still a pervasive stigma surrounding gaming to this day. 

In many aspects, gaming is still viewed as a non-productive entertainment medium, a way to waste time and money. But we know, as well as all of you, that’s not an accurate portrayal of gaming! Lucky for us, we have experts who have actually studied what gaming can do for your mind on our side as well.

Gaming has been proven to have multiple positive effects on your brain and body. It is because of this data that developing technologies in brain stimulation and exergaming are capitalizing on these effects to create a bright future for the gaming community.

Let’s explore some of these positive effects more deeply and learn how to harness those benefits to improve your quality of life.

The complex culture of gaming

When it comes to technology, video games are still relatively new. But the world of gaming is constantly evolving and growing. The 80s brought on a new wave of culture in the form of music and movies, but it also gave us new tech that allowed game developers to create complex worlds and mechanics. Thus began the meteoric rise of video games.  

This sudden surge in popularity raised a lot of eyebrows and questions. A generational divide emerged around fundamental differences in experiences with the new technology, as many parents believed their children were becoming "addicted" to video games. In the decade that followed, organized research on the effects of video games started to be conducted to determine what exactly gaming could be doing to your brain.

Well, it is true that our brain chemistry is affected by playing games and responds similarly to the reward stimuli as it does to other positive experiences. But we know that gaming is far from an addictive drug. In actuality, gaming can potentially offer you ways to train and exercise your brain more effectively than ever before.

After research began in earnest on how video games actually affect the mind, the stigma around gaming began to diminish within the scientific community. Experts have found numerous positive effects that regular gaming can have on the brain and body, such as:

  • Increased motor skills and coordination
  • Overall healthier brain development
  • Enhanced social skills

While some cultural prejudice still persists, it hasn't halted continued developments in gaming technologies. New breakthroughs related to the positive effects of gaming have even led to cutting edge tools for high-level brain development being created, including body training. This is being achieved through full-body gaming experiences with exergaming.

So take that Mom and Dad, video games can actually help us be healthier!

A young boy and his grandfather sit on a couch with video game controllers in hand. The boy has his right arm in the air in a victory pose. The grandfather laughs with the boy.

The positive effects of gaming

In her TED talk, Your Brain on Video Games, neurologist Daphne Bavelier speaks at length about how her research has repeatedly shown that gaming can have monumental benefits with the way your brain functions and learns. According to her research, our brains develop and improve off of empirical data, and video games offer a multitude of experiences for your mind that can’t be found anywhere else!

Reaction speed and dexterity

The more fast-paced decision making you experience while playing video games, the faster your brain can actually react under pressure in the real world. Having to make quick, repeated movements also benefits your dexterity and nervous system control. 

In a 2008 study by the American Psychological Association on a group of surgeons, those who played video games were much faster at performing advanced techniques and made 37% fewer mistakes than those who weren't gamers. So maybe having to use your decision making skills as zombies are busting through the door isn’t a total waste of time. 

Increased gray matter

Regular gaming doesn't just train your reflexes. It may in fact actually strengthen your brain throughout your life. A 2015 study discovered that the brains of long-term gamers are actually better “connected” and more efficient at networking than the brains of non-gamers. 

This same study also showed that gamer brains have significantly more gray matter than non-gamer brains. Now that sounds cool, but what in the world is gray matter? Well, it’s the part of your brain that contains high concentrations of nerve cells. This means that a higher gray matter volume in the brain results in faster processing time. In the same way that regular exercise strengthens muscles over time, regular brain workouts with gaming can also physically strengthen your brain.

An illustration of a human head with the brain cavity exposed. Various sized circles connected by straight lines spill out of the head. It is representing the interconnectivity of neurological pathways in the brain.

Better social and collaborative skills

Studies have also shown that playing video games can be an effective way to develop and improve social skills, as many games today operate based on collaborative or competitive elements. 

In 2015, a study conducted by Columbia University found that children who regularly played video games were more likely to have healthier social lives and perform significantly better academically. 

Throughout the various quarantines we have experienced in the past year and a half, games may have acted as a legitimate social outlet for many people. We’re sure many of you could share your own experiences, within and outside of the Covid-19 pandemic, about how gaming provided you with a chance to meet new people and make real friends.

A young man smiles from behind a computer monitor and webcam. He is wearing headphones with an attached microphone. He is sitting in a gaming chair. His computer tower rests on the desk next to him. Neon purple lights illuminate the right side of his face.

Increased problem-solving skills

Gaming experiences are centered around the intangible. Other than your controller, you’re not physically interacting with elements in a video game. And though we are in an age where virtual and augmented reality gaming is becoming more popular, most games rely on using your problem solving abilities instead of your physical strength to get you through a level. Nearly every type of game on the market encourages you to train your brain to think strategically (and several steps ahead). 

Even back in 2013, research from the APA showed that gamers typically exhibited significantly more developed problem-solving skills than non-gamers. This indicates that gamers are, in general, better prepared to overcome mental challenges whether it be in their personal, professional, or virtual lives.

Incentivized health

We can see there are a vast number of benefits video games have to offer us, but there’s always one thing in particular that keeps us coming back for more…they’re fun! 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that most people don’t outgrow gaming as a hobby. This means that games aren't just a tool for children or teens to enjoy and benefit from. Gaming can be for anyone and everyone. Games that provide you with genuine fun while improving your mind and body can actually lead you down a path towards a healthy lifestyle. They can help you make decisions that benefit your health without a second thought.

Video games can encourage healthy habits, and that's what we at SymGym are capitalizing on.

A young woman wears Virtual Reality goggles. She is reaching toward us. She is wearing a red plain shirt and jeans and is in a well-lit bedroom.

The future of gaming

With all the benefits gaming offers, it only makes sense that gaming can actually help us take better care of our physical health. In fact, there are numerous tools that exist today that are implementing the results of the research we just learned about to help you use gaming to your best advantage.

Exergaming is one exciting field that’s starting to gain real traction. We now know that video games can improve things like our reflexes and problem-solving skills, but what if we went even further? What if you could use games to strengthen your muscles and improve your endurance level as well?

Exergaming is poised and ready to use video games to revolutionize the fitness industry by developing games and tools that not only train and develop your mind but also engage your entire body in a legitimate workout.

Here at SymGym, we believe that working out shouldn't be a chore. In the same way that gaming can develop your brain over time, we want to help create a culture where those games are also strengthening your body. 

Learn more about SymGym today, and subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates and preorder opportunities for your very own exergaming device. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our company or why we believe gaming is the future of fitness.

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