Video exercise games can be good for your mood

New video exercise games are one more way for people to get fit and have some fun at the same time.

Exercise is very important, not only for our physical health, but for our mental well-being. Studies show that exercising increases chemicals in the brain that improve mood.

Video exercise games improve mood by:

  • Stimulating the “feel good” chemicals in your brain
  • Incorporating social activity into your life
  • Taking your mind off things
  • Adding some fun into your day
  • Giving you a sense of accomplishment
  • Becoming a starting point for more vigorous exercise

“When you activate the body, you activate the mind causing endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals, to be released,” explains Dr. Nasreen Khatri, clinical psychologist, clinician leader of the Mood and Related Disorders Clinic, and head of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at Baycrest.

Video exercise games are a great way to condition the body as a starting point for doing more exercise in the future.

“When people are down or depressed, self-care, such as exercise, is one of the first things that is neglected,” says Dr. Khatri. A sedentary lifestyle can worsen the situation.

“If you can get someone to move while paying attention to a game which they find fun, this really lifts mood,” she adds. “When you are playing a game you find enjoyable, you forget that you are exerting yourself and the exercise doesn’t seem like a chore.”

The game itself becomes a distraction—not just from the exercise but also from the negative thinking that plagues individuals who have depression. As well, if you are playing with a partner, it becomes a way to socialize which is also beneficial to those experiencing mood problems.

Initially, improvement in mood may only last for the length of the game. However, over many games, players experience between-game effects of improved mood and energy.

Research shows that exercise can be as beneficial as medication for people who have mild depression, but anyone can benefit from regular activity, Dr. Khatri notes. Many health problems improve with exercise. When you begin to feel better mentally, you feel better physically and vice versa.

How do video exercise games work?

Video exercise games are usually played on a television with a wireless controller or remote which is used as a handheld pointing device. The remote detects movement in three dimensions. Rather than sitting and pressing buttons with your fingers and thumbs, the games get you off the couch and moving your muscles through a variety of activities as you simulate swinging a bat or tennis racket or throwing a ball or even a fishing line.

The games promote the use of fine motor and gross motor skills.

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