Exercise Improves Video Game Performance: A Win-Win Situation

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Jul;52(7):1595-1602. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002277.

Abstract

Purpose: Video gamers exceeding screen-time limits are at greater risk of experiencing health issues associated with physical inactivity. Demonstrating that exercise has positive effects on video game performance could promote physical activity among video gamers. We investigated the short-term effects of a single session of cardiovascular exercise on the performance of the popular video game League of Legends (LoL) and explored psychosocial mechanisms.

Methods: Twenty young video gamers played a customized LoL task preceded by a short bout of high-intensity interval training or a period of rest. The two conditions were administered on two separate days in a randomized counterbalanced fashion. Video game performance was assessed as the total number of targets eliminated as well as accuracy, defined as the ability to eliminate targets using single attacks. Short-term changes in affect after exercise as well as exercise enjoyment were also assessed.

Results: Exercise improved (P = 0.027) the capacity to eliminate targets (mean ± SEM, 121.17 ± 3.78) compared with rest (111.38 ± 3.43). Exercise also enhanced accuracy (P = 0.019), with fewer targets eliminated with more than one attack after exercise (1.39 ± 0.39) compared with rest (2.44 ± 0.51). Exercise increased positive affect by 17% (P = 0.007), but neither affect nor exercise enjoyment was associated with total number of targets eliminated or accuracy.

Conclusion: A short bout of intense cardiovascular exercise before playing LoL improves video game performance. More studies are needed to establish whether these effects are generalizable to other video games, whether repeated bouts have summative effects, and to identify underlying mechanisms.