The rush of playing video games is undeniable, whether you play single player games or multiplayer games online. This heady rush that gaming gives, has now been proven to affect the heart, albeit, with expected results.
Video games have permanently altered the way people spend their free time. Playing video games is no longer an activity exclusive to children, since many adults have become ardent gamers as well. With more intense visuals, violence, stratagems, and interactive online gaming, it should come as no surprise that video games have seeped into our everyday lives. There is no doubt about the fact that, killing zombies in ‘Left 4 Dead’, and playing the epic games of ‘Warhammer’ and ‘Call of Duty’, are tremendously challenging, and are a never ending source of adrenaline rush!
Leaving the fun aspect aside for the moment, what about the effects that video games have on one’s health? It is not something to be simply shrugged off. Which is why, this article specifically discusses how video games affect your heart rate.
Effects of Video Games on Heart Rate
A study conducted by Malena Ivarsson from Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute has revealed that playing video games affects the heart rate significantly. The research paper titled, ‘The Effect of Violent and Nonviolent Video Games on Heart Rate Variability, Sleep, and Emotions in Adolescents With Different Violent Gaming Habits’ was published in the American Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.
For the study, thirty boys between the ages 13 to 16 years were selected. The boys were divided into two equal groups. The first group, namely the high exposure group, comprised volunteers who were required to play violent video games for more than three hours a day. The second group, the members of the low exposure group, were made to play violent games for less than an hour a day.
The boys were monitored for two evenings while playing video games at their homes. Researchers monitored the volunteers for emotional, physiological, and sleep reactions. They were made to play ‘Manhunt’, a violent game, and Animaniacs, a nonviolent cartoon video game.
The study revealed that, while sleeping, the heart rates of the boys from the low exposure group were much faster after playing the violent video game, as compared to the previous night, when they were made to play the nonviolent video game.
On the other hand, the heart rates of the boys from the high exposure group lowered after playing the nonviolent game, as compared to the previous night, when they were made to play the violent video game.
The research also revealed some significant differences in the pattern of the heart rate variability (HRV) among the boys belonging to the high exposure group. The beat to beat variation in the heart rate of the high exposure boys was different, thereby suggesting more blunt reactions from their sympathetic nervous systems.
The normal heart rate of an average person is between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Video games that are relatively calm and played while sitting down lead to a negligible rise in one’s heart rate. However, violent video games played while sitting down, and also those that require light physical activity, tend to increase the heart rate by an average of 20 bpm. Games that require complete and vigorous body activity can increase one’s heart rate by even 75% to 100%, depending on the age.
While playing violent video games may affect the heart rate and indirectly affect our health, research has also revealed that playing active video games help burn calories, lose weight, and could become an alternative for outdoor activities in the near future.