08 Dec The Physical Demands of eSports Athletes
The world of competitive video gaming is a fast-growing international phenomenon with millions of fans and billions of dollars up for grabs.
Streaming services and live events have turned casual gamers into serious stars who can sometimes rake in seven-figure earnings and massive brand endorsements.
WHAT IS ESPORTS?
Put simply, eSports is competitive level gaming.
It’s teams of people playing games against each other at a professional level, regularly winning huge sums of money as prizes.
These eSports players are contracted to play for a variety of different organisations, much like a football or basketball player would be. These teams practice and compete in their respective game just as a footballer or other sportsperson would too.
Depending on the game they play – from shooters such as Call of Duty to sports titles like Madden NFL – there will be a number of tournaments and events each year with hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes obtainable, sometimes even entering the millions.
These gamers are watched and followed by an immeasurable number of fans all over the world, who attend live events, tune in on TV or stream online.
Although many wouldn’t think it, eSport players experience the same physical and mental demands as any athlete.
By most measures, videogaming is already a sport, and gamers are a highly evolved breed of extreme athlete. The top players form teams, compete in leagues, hire full-time coaches, and adopt strict training regimens.
In 2020, Medium published an insightful article looking at the training regimes of various eSports teams. They found players train roughly 50 hours a week, as a group, plus many individuals choose to train separately on top of this.
They do this while following a customised diet, as nutrition is key to performance and reaction times. Much like with other sports, teams will also review past performance with their coach and analyse what went right and wrong.
The training itself uses state of the art technology that focuses on key functions like attention, memory and reaction time. Training exercises will even mimic real-life situations with crowd noises and changing lights used to get players familiar with the possible distractions they may face in a live competition setting. In addition to training being closely related to the game itself, eSports teams now hire fitness coaches as standard.
The margins between winning and losing are so small that being in physically better shape can end up making all the difference, and certainly has a direct impact on reaction times, endurance and the ability to maintain concentration for extended periods.
THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS
A study conducted and exposed that eSport athletes are exposed to the same physical strains as “normal athletes”.
The study showed the amount of stress hormone – cortisol, going through the players during a competition, matched those of race car drivers.
In addition, eSports players also had heart rates around 160-180 beats per minute (which is equivalent to running at a high cadence).
According to a study carried out by Queensland University of Technology in 2020, the impact of this is that eSports players are between 9% and 21% more likely to be at a healthy weight compared to the general population.
They also smoke and drink much less too, which firmly challenges the stereotype that people who play video games competitively are sedentary and obese.
The study added that “As part of their training regime, elite eSports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress”.
Unfortunately, many eSports players still don’t realise the massive bodily demands being placed on them and therefore don’t train for competition in a professional manner.
This can lead to many problems that could be easily prevented with adequate exercise, targeted for eSports players.
I guess the questions remains…
Will we see a gamer make it on the front of a Weet-Bix box one day?
ESPORTS & EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY
Exercise and physical activity play a key role for success in eSports and should be a focus for players and organisations training eSports players.
This will mean that in the future, young gamers will have more reason and motivation to be physically active.
Esports, even though demanding, is sedentary and poses a large cognitive load on athletes.
A balanced lifestyle can improve overall health for eSports athletes, as well as enhance gaming performance. Exercise produces countless benefits that can help players reach a higher level of gaming — both physical and mental.
As the world continues to wrap their heads around this still up and coming phenomenon, there aren’t many who understand it as mush as Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Samuel Warrener.
Sam has worked as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for over 10 years and is currently the Managing Director & Founder of the R.E.P.S: Rockhampton Exercise Physiology Service.
Using computer games as a way to switch off from his long clinical days, Sam discovered the need for exercise within the gaming world after talking with others while playing online.
Knowing he could help, Sam created Rehab eSports, combining his two passions – online gaming and exercise physiology.
We spoke with Sam who gave us an insight to common issues among players and the importance exercise can play.
HEAR FROM AN EXPERT:
What role does exercise physiology play in the gaming world?
There are three distinct categories in the gaming world; Streamers, Pro Gamers, and Recreational Gamers. Exercise physiology education, general exercise interventions and individualised exercise prescription is relevant to all of these categories, but varies in focus.
Streamers are incredibly devoted to spending long hours in front of a webcam while playing games or talking to fans and this prolonged sitting is the primary focus of my intervention. Pro Gamers often compete for prize money in tournaments; they often train similarly to elite athletes with skill, fitness, strength, reflex and tactic components. Recreational gamers will often play for fun but are reaping benefits of social community, de-stressing, and freedom from physical limitations that their body is placing on them.
Throughout my time gaming, I have competed in tournaments, streamed and played for recreation and can empathise with each group as well as see the importance of integration of exercise into their daily life. As we (AEPs) do with everyone, we listen to the individual about their current challenges, goals and lifestyle, and use this information to tailor their exercise prescription to suit them, with an aim for improved progression.
What are your general top 3 health tips for gamers?
1. Go AFK to be AOK
Breaking up your gaming sessions is a big key to improving your health and your in-game performance. Getting up and going for a walk allows your eyes to readjust, your hormone levels to rebalance, increase cardiovascular health and improve your mental health.
2. Mods for Posture to Nerf Musculoskeletal Issues
If you’re sitting for long periods or laying down for an extended time, your body gets used to this position and certain muscles will weaken and/or tighten. See the point above for preventative measures, but often we are dealing with years of a habit of poor posture prior to seeking help. To help in these situations, stretches are often needed to improve hip flexor, hamstring and anterior shoulder tightness, as well as strengthening exercises for the glutes, quadriceps and upper back musculature.
3. Set Up Your Gaming Station to Maximize your HP
Whether you’re a pro with more RGB than RAM or a n00b on a potato, your gaming station set up will be something that is unique to you. While setting it up in your style, it might be worth following these few ideas to make sure your war room doesn’t become a sore room:
- Keep the top of your monitor at eye height.
- Set up your chair with your feet on the ground and joints (elbow, knees and hips) at 90 degrees.
- Have all your peripheries (mouse, keyboard, controller) within easy reach.
Speak with a professional
Accredited exercise professionals are university-qualified who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve health, fitness, well-being, performance, and assist in the prevention of chronic conditions.
To find an accredited exercise professional near you, click here.
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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.