Want to Stay Healthy? Bring out the Board Games!

Sick? Tired? Recovering from health problems or trying to prevent them? The answer might be as simple as playing a tabletop game! Board games are not only fun, but they help people of all ages. Here is an overview of some of the health benefits that board games provide.

The most obvious benefit of board games is that they are fun! Games bring people together, create social interaction, get people laughing, and build positive attitudes.

scrabble.jpgEven when players are so competitive that they end up arguing and vowing to never speak to each other again (maybe a little extreme, tone it down a bit), they are still enjoying their gameplay experience because their focus is shifted away from the outside world and their regular responsibilities. This is one reason why games are played over and over, because this relaxation and positive experience is contagious.

What exactly happens when you laugh? Your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals released by your brain that are very beneficial to your body. Endorphins function to relax muscles and enhance blood circulation throughout your body. In other words, your daily dose of board games may reduce your blood pressure or at least maintain it. Since high blood pressure is associated with increased heart risks, artery damage, and strokes, a daily dose of board games may be just what the doctor ordered!

Furthermore, if you are enjoying playing games and are taking the focus away from the outside world, then clearly you are lowering your stress levels. This is just common sense that laughing and doing something that you enjoy reduces stress. In fact, a survey found that 64% of respondents said they play games as a way to unwind and relax, while 53% said they play specifically for stress relief. In addition, studies have shown that playing games create higher feelings of comfort, mental balance, empathy, compassion, trust, and even temporarily relieve pain.

backgammonAnother positive focus of playing games involves cognitive functions such as memory, information retention, problem-solving, team work, decision making, critical thinking, and more. Exercising your brain develops your mind, preserves your memory, increases your IQ, and enhances learning capability. How can this be? This is because these activities are derived from the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex of the brain. By playing games, you are exercising these specific parts, which results in acquiring new skills, staying more active and focused, and making quick decisions. And as we grow older, we can all use some help in improving our memory.  So next time you can’t remember where you put your keys or the tv remote, pick up a game instead!

Though these benefits span all ages, this is especially beneficial for children because board games play a critical role in child development and growth. Games help children develop crucial skills, such as logic, reasoning, critical thinking, general knowledge, communication, and even spatial reasoning. Also playing board games increases a child’s attention span, focus, and memory. Remember the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex that was already mentioned? It’s even more important for children to develop these parts of the brain early for long-term learning and social interaction. The more developed that the child is, the higher skills they will have in life. In fact, it has been determined that playing board games makes even teenagers more intelligent!

As for the elderly, did you know that board games lower your risk for mental diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression? This is because regularly playing board games keeps your mind active and engaged. A stronger brain is less likely to lose its power. In one study, weekly purposeful cognitive activity, such as playing games, was associated with a 64% reduction in Alzheimer’s disease! Another study found that one mental stimulating activity per week decreased the risk of dementia by 7%, while greater than once per week saw reductions of an amazing 63%!

catanIn contrast, studies have shown that stress, mental laziness, and negativity is harmful to our bodies. This weakens our ability to fight disease. However, combine the effects of playing games that release those enriching endorphins, give stress relief, promote healthy emotions, and provide purposeful brain activity, and what do you get? A stronger immune system! So if we have a strong, active brain, our bodies can better recognize biological intruders and bolster our defense!

Lastly, board games can be great therapy! Games use fine motor skills, such as picking up game pieces, moving objects, or passing cards. This is especially helpful to young children, the elderly, or those with disabilities or in recovery. Not only does it improve a person’s functionality and coordination, but it aids muscle and nerve functions too. This is the reason why board games are frequently used in hospitals, classrooms, and rehabilitation centers.

Overall, board games have countless benefits! From physical to mental to emotional assets, don’t hesitate to start playing a game right now! Truly, a board game a day keeps the doctor away!

Sources:

14 Wonderful Health Benefits of Playing Board Games with Family. (2017, November 28). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://drhealthbenefits.com/lifestyle/healthy/healthy-activities/benefits-of-playing-board-games-with-family

8 Surprising Health Benefits Of Board Games. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://logicroots.com/MathBlog/8-surprising-health-benefits-of-playing-board-games/

Dartigues, J. F., Foubert-Samier, A., Goff, M. L., Viltard, M., Amieva, H., Orgogozo, J. M., . . . Helmer, C. (2013). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758967/

Health Fitness Revolution. (2018, February 08). Top 10 Health Benefits of Board Games. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-board-games/

Humor Helps Your Heart? How? Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/Humor-helps-your-heart-How_UCM_447039_Article.jsp#

Social laughter releases endorphins in the brain. (2017, June 01). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170601124121.htm

The Benefits of Play for Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

The Amazing Health Benefits of Board Games … for Adults as Well as Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/11/29/the-amazing-health-benefits-of-board-games–for-adults-as-well-as-kids.htm

Wilson, R. S., Bennett, D. A., Bienias, J. L., Aggarwal, N. T., Mendes, C. F., Morris, M. C., . . . Evans, D. A. (2002, December 24). Cognitive activity and incident AD in a population-based sample of older persons. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12499482

Wilson, R., Bennett, D., Bienias, J., Aggarwal, N., Leon, C. M., Schneider, J., . . . M.C. Morris. (2002, December 24). Cognitive activity and incident AD in a population-based sample of older persons. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://n.neurology.org/content/59/12/1910

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