It’s about time that everyone moved on from the stereotype that gaming is a waste of time and kills brain cells because in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Recent studies have shown that playing certain games can, in fact, improve your stress levels, concentration skills and motivation. So go forth and hit them buttons, it’s all good for you.


Relieve stress

Level up your cortisol with Hitman

Knife, poisoned martini or medieval cannon? Meticulously-planned stalking or full-frontal assault? According to US scientists, games simulating stressful events are effective at training the brain to deal with real-life stressors. By choosing games full of on-the-spot choices and death-if-you’re-wrong decision making, you’ll be better equipped to handle stress in the real world.

Cortisol, associated with stress, can increase your ability to store fat and shave years of your life. So once you’ve orchestrated a multi-layered assassination attempt dressed as a circus acrobat, your next work crisis should be a breeze.


Overcome workout problems

Stimulate your brain with Assassin’s Creed

Gaming’s increasingly detail-rich environments aren’t just providing window-dressing, they’re also helping light up regions of your brain that might ordinarily go untouched. In the Journal of Neuroscience research, Gregory Clemenson found that, the more complex environments subjects were given to explore, the better they performed on tests of memory and hippocampal function afterwards. The team theorised that this could be used to stave off cognitive decline in ageing populations.


Boost your sporting self-confidence

Reboot your sports specific confidence with Minecraft

According to a study published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology, being part of a ‘positive’ culture of other gamers can have a positive impact on attitude and behaviour. Minecraft, which allows players to build virtual worlds then invite friends to interact with them, is the perfect example. It’s a global platform for creativity and interaction, allowing users to build complex mods and solve problems together.

Of course, if this sounds a bit too much like hard work, and you’d rather relax with a post-pub thrash on FIFA, all is not lost. In a study done on young men playing NFL game Madden, subjects who were allowed to trash-talk opponents showed increased self-confidence and positivity. If you want to get in the right mindset before a match, play games that allow you to interact with other gamers visually as well as via the audio. It’ll give you that can-win attitude before you hit any field.


Enhance reaction times

Speed up your skills with a Mario Kart session

There’s evidence that those hours shaving your lap times on Rainbow Road weren’t a waste of time.Researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that, after gamers and non-gamers were challenged to stay in the right lane during ‘windy’ conditions on a driving simulator, the subjects who’d spent anywhere from five to 10 hours playing driving games or first person shooters were significantly better.

If you play a sport that requires faster reaction times (yep, all of them), then banging out a little Mario is a great way to ramp up said times. Just watch out for banana skins.


Locate your sporting weakness

Unlock creativity to beat opponents with Grand Theft Auto V

Can’t land that car on that rooftop? Maybe you need a faster one, or a longer run-up, or to blow up something nearby so you can change the angle of approach. If that line of thinking seems familiar, then your virtual rampages might be improving your blue-sky thinking.

That’s according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who found that gamers often approach games like science problems, by testing hypothesis and trying new tactics. Scientists at the University of Michigan found that, while browsing the web had no effect on 12-year-olds’ drawing or writing ability, gaming boosted their performance.

Note: the 12-year-olds were not playing Grand Theft Auto.


Find advice and pro workout tips and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.