Esports performance is heavily reliant on cognitive function, and much of the current research focuses on interventions to improve esports performance. In this study, researchers investigated the effects of taking breaks during video game play on executive function and gaming performance in competitive first-person shooter esports players. The study used a randomized repeated measures experimental design, with 21 participants (12 men and 9 women) from seven different countries. The study included three groups: a walking intervention, a resting intervention, and a control condition. In the walking intervention, participants took a 6-minute walking break after an hour of gameplay. In the resting intervention, participants took a 6-minute resting break after an hour of gameplay. In the control condition, participants did not take any breaks during the 2 hours of gameplay. The primary outcome was to evaluate executive function changes, with secondary outcomes including gaming performance and players’ perceptions of their performance.
The results of the study showed that taking a walking break improved executive function and processing speed, compared to taking a resting break or no break, but did not significantly improve actual game performance. However, the study also found that over 70% of the highly competitive gamers who participated perceived the walking break as having a positive effect on their gameplay. In contrast, taking a resting break decreased executive function speed in players, and continuous play (no break) resulted in a faster problem-solving and planning time than just a rest break, but slower than taking a walking break.
One possible explanation for the beneficial effects of the walking break on executive function and performance is that physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue. Taking a walking break may have provided a break from the cognitive demands of the video game, allowing the players to reset their focus and attention. The resting break, on the other hand, may have disrupted the players’ focus and attention, leading to a decline in executive function and performance.
Overall, the results of this study suggest that incorporating physical activity into video game play, especially for those who engage in prolonged sitting and high levels of cognitive stress, can have beneficial effects on executive function and performance in esports players. The study also highlights the potential negative effects of prolonged sitting on cognitive function and health in esports players, and the importance of addressing these issues through interventions such as physical activity breaks. Further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these findings, and to explore the potential long-term effects of physical activity breaks on health
There are several unique considerations that coaches or support staff should take away from this study:
Donoghue, Joanne & Jenny, Seth & Douris, Peter & Ahmad, Sophia & Yuen, Kyle & Hassan, Tamzid & Gan, Hillary & Abraham, Kenney & Sousa, Amber. (2021). Breaking up prolonged sitting with a 6 min walk improves executive function in women and men esports players: A randomised trial. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 7. 10.1136/bmjsem-2021-001118.
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