Good news for gamers : A recent study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine revealed that only a small correlation exists between playing video games and carrying excess weight. In fact, after conducting a meta-analysis of 20 studies collectively including nearly 40,000 people, researchers found the difference in body mass between gamers and non-gamers to be less than one percent.
Here’s where it gets especially interesting: For their analysis, the researchers only examined studies of sedentary video gamers—meaning those included in the study weren’t benefitting from the calorie burn that active games like bowling or dancing can deliver.
But before you decide to ditch your diet in favor of a day-long Mario Kart session, know this: There are some mistakes gamers make that can cause them to pack on the pounds while they play.
If gaming is a hobby of yours, make sure to avoid these five mistakes that can lead to weight gain:
1. You Mindlessly Munch
Did you ever make a big bowl of popcorn to enjoy during movie night with the family only to look down 10 minutes into the movie and realize you’ve hit the bottom of the bowl? You’re not alone: Studies suggest that eating while distracted—like you are while watching television—can prompt you to eat more. Which means if you opt for a snack while playing a video game, you could end up overeating.
Stick to regular meal times and if you’re going to snack, pour a single serving into a bowl and leave the bag in the kitchen. This way, you won’t mindlessly devour an entire bag of snacks while you play.
And don’t stop patrolling portions after you power down: Multiple studies have linked distracted eating to an increase in consumption at subsequent meals—regardless of hunger.
2. You Replace Other Activities
While everyone deserves to enjoy some leisure time, it’s important to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. And when you spend a chunk of those hours in front of a TV trying to beat your best score, chances are good you’re subtracting hours from other important tasks, like exercising or prepping healthy meals and snacks for the week.
Since it can become very easy to lose track of time while you’re in the midst of a heated game, try setting a curfew for your game playing. Set an alarm to go off on your phone when it’s time to power down, and have a plan for what you’ll do when that alarm goes off.
Head outside for a nice long walk. Or sign up for a workout class with a friend later in the day. Bringing a friend in on the action will ensure you’re held accountable and won’t let the “One more game” syndrome cause you to miss the class.
3. You Skip Social Events
Don’t let your gaming hobby interfere with your social life, or you could see the number on the scale start to creep up. According to a 2014 study, loneliness and social isolation can lead to an increase in sugar intake. Another study from the same year revealed a link between loneliness and binge eating disorder.
Enjoy your gaming hobby, but don’t let it consume your social life. Being around the people you love will ensure you feel fulfilled by something other than food.
4. You Forget to Get Outside
Spending time outdoors can elevate your mood, increase your vitamin D levels, improve your concentration, and get you moving more. Spend too many hours in front of your screen, and you’ll miss out on all of these benefits.
Remember that alarm we suggested you set to remind you to power down? Use it as a reminder to get outside.
5. You Stick to Just One Game
Multiple studies confirm that playing active video games-those that involve physical activity like bowling or dancing, help people burn more calories. So if your go-to game is a sedentary one, make sure to mix things up here and there and try a more movement-focused game.
These days, there’s a game for every activity, from boxing to bowling. Consider hosting a game night with friends who share your hobby, and make it a BYO(A)G-bring your own active game. You’ll all benefit from the burn these games will deliver, and you’ll have fun doing it.
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