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Exercise May Make You a Better Gamer

From Club Industry: Exercise can improve cognitive function and advance mental performance, according to a study from ASICS. Exercise increased short-term memory, concentration levels and gaming performance, a study conducted May-September 2022 of 77 gamers from 20 countries found. ASICS invited competitive gamers from around the world, specializing in mind games such as chess and e-sports and who rely on their cognitive function, to start an exercise program. After four months of regular exercise, participants’ saw the following individual improvements:

  • International gaming rankings up 75%

  • Cognitive function up 10%

  • Problem-solving abilities up 9%

  • Short-term memory up 12%

  • Processing speed and alertness up 10%

As a group, confidence levels increased by 44%, concentration improved by 33% and anxiety levels plummeted by 43%. The research shows exercise can be as effective at boosting brain function as learning a second language, daily reading, playing a new musical instrument or completing a puzzle every day, the authors said. Professor Brendon Stubbs, a researcher in movement and the mind, developed and led the experiment. Each gamer followed a training program designed by runner turned international coach Andrew Kastor. The program included medium impact cardio and strength training and increased the gamers’ exercise levels to 150 minutes per week. Stubbs measured the mental improvement of the participants based on their performance in their mind games, cognitive tests and well-being questionnaires over the course of their four-month research period. "We all know that exercise is good for our mental and physical health, but the impact on cognitive functioning has been less explored,” Stubbs said. “We wanted to examine the effects of exercise on people who depend on their cognitive abilities — competitive mind gamers. Our results show significant improvements in their cognitive functioning, including concentration levels and problem-solving abilities.” Exercise stimulates cell growth in the brain and rapidly increases blood flow to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, mechanisms that enable people to better retain memories, process information and problem solve quickly, Stubbs said. “If exercise can significantly increase the mental performance of professional mind gamers, imagine what it could do for the rest of us,” he said. “From increasing focus when [studying] for an exam or improving alertness before a work presentation, exercise truly can enhance brain power." The study also found that the gamers’ mental well-being increase with average State of Mind scores improving by 31 percent from an average state of mind score at the start of the study below 58 to a high of 76 at the end of the study. "These results are astonishing and speak to the power of exercise,” Kastor said. “Many of the gamers couldn’t jog for longer than a minute at the start of the study, so their training program had to be moderate. One hundred and fifty minutes a week sounds like a lot, but when you break it down, this could be five sets of 30 minutes. No matter your fitness levels, the mental benefits of exercise are accessible to all." Inspired by this study, four competitive gamers began a regular exercise to improve their rankings on the international stage as a camera crew followed them. That film, “Mind Games – The Experiment,” is now available on Prime Video.

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