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17 June 2020

Video games may sabotage fitness among college students

Researchers say if we can encourage video game users to eat healthier and exercise more, we could help them live healthier without needing to give up video games.

  • Many male students who like playing video games have unhealthy lifestyles
  • They tend to eat junk food and don't get enough exercise
  • This kind of lifestyle can lead to weight gain and chronic disease

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Video games often stand in the way of exercise and healthy eating among male college students, a new study shows.

"It's important to understand that video games are a risk factor for poor lifestyle habits that may contribute to poor health," said researcher Dustin Moore, a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire.

"We know that habits developed in adolescence and early adulthood can stick with people for the rest of their lives, so if we can encourage video game users to eat healthier and exercise more, we could help them live healthier without completely giving up video games," he noted.

For the study, Moore and his team collected data on 1 000 male students aged 18 to 24 at the University of New Hampshire.

Participants reported how much time they spent playing video games and what they ate. Physical activity was recorded with a pedometer.

Chronic disease later in life

More than 40% of the men played video games for least five hours a week, the findings showed. Those who played video games ate more saturated fat and sodium than non-players, suggesting they are eating more salty snacks.

Players also ate fewer fruits and vegetables and were less physically active than non-players, the researchers found.

Although no differences were seen in weight between players and non-players, poor eating and exercise habits might lead to excess weight gain and chronic disease later in life, the investigators noted.

The findings were scheduled for presentation at the virtual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"The video game industry is continuing to grow at a fast pace and more people are playing than ever," Moore said in an ASN news release.

"If the findings of our study are indicative of general population, increases in video game usage could translate to increases in overweight/obesity and chronic disease in the general population, which is already a big issue," he added.

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