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New Study Reveals the Crazy Calorie Burn of Playing Video Games

Evidently, playing FIFA comes with a calorie burn that's on par with legit exercise.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

Our collective view of video games has come a long way from the 8-bit 1980s and 64-bit 1990s, two eras in which parents and medical professionals assumed that parking it in front of Mario or Sonic for hours on end would rot your mind and make you gain weight.

Fast forward today's e-sports era, and we now know that playing video games won't actually rot your mind at all—in fact, according to research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year, which examined the cognitive skills of 27 young adults between the ages of 18 and 40, playing video games earlier in life is strongly linked with better working memory later in the life.

"People who were avid gamers before adolescence, despite no longer playing, performed better with the working memory tasks, which require mentally holding and manipulating information to get a result," researcher Marc Palaus, Ph.D., noted in the official release.

Now, while we know that leading e-sports competitors (aka: "professional video gamers") tend to exercise as much as other professional athletes to keep fit both mentally and physically, new research suggests that the act of playing video games can actually burn a lot of calories.

As first reported by The Daily Mail, research conducted by the online gaming platform Stakester claims that gamers who are male can burn upwards of 420 calories over the course of a two-hour session, while gamers who are female are looking at a calorie burn of 472 calories. To arrive at their figures, the researchers outfitted gamers with monitors that monitored their heart rates and their calories burned while playing two games: Warzone, a shooter game; and FIFA, the popular soccer game.

"We all know that competition increases our heart rate and most of us have experienced the 'gaming sweat' that happens when you're searching for a last-minute goal in FIFA or in a tight spot in Warzone," Tom Fairey, CEO and founder of Stakester, explained to The Daily Mail. "It's no surprise that this burns calories, but we we're surprised to see just how many is burned during a 2-hour session, it certainly beats doing 1,000 sit ups!"

If their calculations are correct, that means that your typical man playing FIFA would burn 210 calories per hour—or 105 calories per half-hour. Put into perspective, according to well-known research out of Harvard Medical School, the average 155-pound person burns 108 calories per 30 minutes lifting weights. Other sports or activities with a similar rate of calorie burn include dancing, playing volleyball, throwing the frisbee, and bowling.

Now, it goes without saying that the gamers tested for the aforementioned study are likely serious gamers, and they got their heart rates up with intense focus. Chances are, firing up Tetris on your computer and idly passing the time won't produce the same results.

Still, this research is the latest to break the stereotype that playing video games is inherently an unhealthy endeavor. Research published in 2020 found that e-sports players are indeed fitter and have less body fat than the general population. And if you're in the market for a far more traditional workout, don't miss The #1 Most Overlooked Exercise if You Want a Lean Body, Say Experts.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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