Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

Eat healthy, exercise and play video games

pac man screen

Many people who are interested in health think video games are evil. They think they are a cause of obesity, violence and laziness. I think they are not.

Games can be a great way to play with your child and engage in their world. They are not just for children though: they stimulate the brain and make you sharper and improve your fine motor skills.

Video games and obesity/laziness

Sure, running is better for your health than playing video games. But you do not need to run for hours a day to achieve optimum health. Playing video games is sedentary, but so is reading, watching a movie, knitting, drawing and working at a desk. This seems hardly a reason to condone playing games. In fact, I would guess most avid gamers do not have time to mindlessly munch away calories, like people who watch tv often do.

Video games and aggression

  1. There are many video games that are not aggressive at all and there is a huge variation in games that are somewhat aggressive.
  2. The research is not conclusive that violent games lead to violence. There are studies that say it does, and there are studies that say it doesn't. If you keep in mind that 90% of all boys play video games and that youth violence has shown a massive decline in the past 25 years, the logical conclusion seems to be that video games cannot be all that bad.

Small children should not be confronted with excess violence on television, in books and in games. Parents should choose the games of their kids carefully. GamerDad is a great resource for that. That said: I personally find the eight o' clock news much more disturbing than Halo, where you kill weird looking creatures with green and blue blood. Violence has always been a part of our culture and arts. Even children's literature and fairy tales are full of violence. I never realized to what extend this is true until I started to read to my daughter. She can play Mario Kart with me, but she cannot listen to Snow White, let alone watch Tom and Jerry.

Update (October 2006): now that she is three, Mario Kart is the scariest game in the world, with the biting flowers in some levels. Jet Set Radio Future (for the XBOX) is her all time favorite video game.

Video games and the brain

Video games are exercise for the brain. Surgeons who play video games are better surgeons than those who do not. “Video game players had faster reaction times on the order of 100 milliseconds, which might not sound like a lot but in this domain it’s quite a strong finding,” says Castel. “And you can imagine, when driving, a difference of 100 milliseconds could really help you avoid accidents.” (source: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables - And Play Video Games)

The bad side

It is not all great. Video games can be addictive. It is much like the internet in this regard. Unlike books and movies, video games are never really finished. There are so many worlds to explore, so many levels to try, hidden features to find. Anything that becomes an addiction, whether it is coffee, cigarettes, sugar, the internet or video games, is bad for you. But just like most people are perfectly able to use the internet sensibly, most people are also perfectly able to play games sensibly.

Some people have adverse reactions to video games. People with epilepsy may suffer a seizure while playing video games. A small portion of gamers report other health problems. This is comparable to people who are allergic to certain foods. The majority of the population can eat strawberries and play video games without any problems. Listen to your body.


Good games are a work of art. For good health, it is not only important to eat well and to exercise, but also to do things you enjoy, to surround yourself with beautiful things, to stimulate your brain and to play with others. Video games are by no means necessary for health, but they can certainly contribute to it.


June 2, 2006