There is a stereotype of MMO players. They're fat, unhealthy, subsist on a diet of Doritos and Cherry Coke and risk either throwing up or dropping dead of a heartache if they do so much as waddle to the toilet. Apparently.
That this stereotype is perpetuated by the sort of person who also sits at a desk for eight hours a day, alternating their time between endless tedious phonecalls and refreshing Facebook every five minutes is an irony that seems lost on them.
Nonethless – whether your time is spent bashing orcs around the chops or obsessively checking for photographic proof that so and so copped off with whatserface at the office party, you're putting your body through an inactive ordeal it wasn't built for.
Granted, the risk is even worse if you're a dedicated player of World of Warcraft or the like, as quite often that sitathon will extend past the daytime and through the evening. It's not good for you – but that doesn't mean you have to stop doing it. You simply need to change your ways.
There are a whole mess of health factors to consider, but broadly they can be distilled into three major categories: diet, exercise and posture. The first is the easiest to fix. In this age of Delia cheat ingredients and supermarkets cynically earning a pretty penny off the five-a-day theory, it's incredibly simple to replace your stock diet of Twiglets and Mars bars with something far healthier that won't delay you from a Naxrammas run for too long.
Dietician Jacqui Lowden from the British Dietetic Association suggests some pretty easy alternatives: "For snack foods have fruit or diet yoghurts. A handful of nuts [unsalted, mind] and dried fruit is good too. Instead of pizza and pot noodles, have things on toast. Beans on toast is a fantastic, cheap and easy snack meal. Or things like tinned fish, especially in a tomato sauce and with omega 3 oils, served with a bit of side salad in a wholemeal bread roll or sandwich."
Yep – beans on toast is good for you. Two minutes in the microwave and you're done. Here's a downer to counter it, though – five a day's what we're told, but, warns Jacui, "In actual fact it should be within seven to nine portions a day. That's exactly why we chose five – if the government made a campaign to do seven to nine most people wouldn't manage it. The national average is 3.5 - five is achievable." Eek. "You don't necessarily have to be overweight to develop heart disease – if you have a very poor diet it's a high risk." Double-eek.
Get a good posture
Next up – because we're saving the worst till last – is posture. The human body isn't designed for quite as much sitting as we do in this LCD-bound age – resting on your butt places six times as much pressure on the lowest disc of your back as standing up or walking does. Chiropractor Rishi Loatey reckons things are getting worse. "We're seeing a dramatic increase in youngsters suffering back pain," he says.
It's to do with the amount of sitting we do. 60% of people in London don't leave their desk at lunchtime. There is an issue going on here. You're finding problems that you wouldn't expect to see in young people."The solution, clearly, is less sitting, but until WoW hits the iPhone, it's pretty hard to tackle a Battleground while wandering around the house.
Again, though, Rishi has some eminently achievable suggestions that won't realistically impact your boar-grinding, so long as you can simply battle your own laziness. "Don't play for more than 45 minutes at a time. It's not a long break, just get up and do some stretches. Shoulder shrugs will help relax the muscles, and allow blood flow to the arms. Also stretch your wrists – bend it backwards, hold it for a few seconds, then stretch forwards, hold it for a seconds and release.
"This helps to prevent tightening of the wrist. You can also tense and hold your arm, then let it flop to the side. This way you're increasing blood flow to the area and loosening the muscles. Get up, stand with with your feet shoulder length apart. There's also neck stretching - try to tuck your chin in as if you're making a double chin and hold it for a couple of seconds."
Similar thinking to the exercises that are advised on plane flights –which you'll know of if you've ever left Azeroth for long enough to go on a plane flight.
DVT is terrifying
Finally, exercise – or lack thereof. On 9 October 2002, one Kim Kyung-jae played Korean MMO Mu Online for almost 86 hours straight, pausing only for toilet and fag breaks. Eventually – inevitably? - he collapsed. He briefly came to again, and managed to lurch over to the toilet. He didn't return. The surmised caused? Deep-vein thrombosis. Again, you'll have heard about it on planes. It's terrifying stuff.
Sitting still for too long impedes the flow of blood around your body, causing clots to form in your limbs. These clots can dislodge and make their way towards important organs such as the lungs. There, they can create a blockage. We needn't explain why the lungs not getting blood is a bad thing.
Okay – it's pretty rare, as are 86-hour-sessions. But do you really want to run that sort of risk? It's not the only one, either. Personal trainer Shaun Trevana, who works at gym chain fitness first, knows of a few other possible fates from excessive dungeon-running: "You won't be using your heart and lungs much, and there'll be muscle atrophy and wastage."
Anything else? "Osteoporosis, because your bones will no longer be doing the weight-bearing that they would if you're walking around." Again, it's not hard to fight this – you just need to adjust the timing of your play sessions a little. "Take an hour out from your PC a day," suggests Shaun. "Try stretching every hour, so you're actually using your body. If you're playing a game, you can sit on a gym ball – you'll be in a good posture position and you'll be using your leg muscles to stabilise yourself."
That's what you can do at the PC, but what you do during your time outside of Northrend is also critical. "Spend 45 minutes to an hour exercising three times a week. Something like circuit training would be best – a full body workout that keeps you toned and oxygenates the muscles. I wouldn't say the rules would change much from person to person. For most people three times a week is more than enough. Don't exclude exercise from your life."
Essentially, then, there's no reason to reduce the amount of time you spend trying to become Revered with the Argent Dawn. There's stuff you can do while you're playing, and if you can persuade yourself to spend the time you're not playing on activities that'll benefit your body, rather than bittorrent Prison Break or arguing on forums, you're laughing. And most of all, living.
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