Physical Exercise and Esports Performance: An Initial Systematic Review

  • Home
  • Physical Exercise and Esports Performance: An Initial Systematic Review
Physical Exercise and Esports Performance: An Initial Systematic Review

This systematic review focuses on the impact of physical activity and exercise on esports performance. It highlights concerns about the sedentary nature of esports and the need for research and health promotion strategies in this field. The review emphasizes the benefits of exercise on cognitive function and mental well-being, which are important for esports performance. It also discusses the various aspects of esports performance, including cognitive abilities and motor skills, and the lack of evidence on the indirect variables that contribute to specific performance indicators. The purpose of the review is to examine the relationship between exercise and esports performance and summarize player attitudes towards exercise. The study follows a systematic search protocol and eligibility criteria. Data analysis involves screening and extraction of relevant information from selected studies, as well as assessing the risk of bias in the included studies.

Studies have suggested that exercise could be an effective intervention strategy to enhance esports player performance. Higher cardiorespiratory fitness has been linked to quicker and more accurate responses in esports players. Additionally, exercise interventions have shown improvements in cognitive abilities like attention, memory, information processing, and task-switching, which are crucial for esports performance. Esports players themselves believe that a healthy lifestyle and appropriate scheduling could enhance their performance.

Measuring esports performance is a complex task. It relies on players’ cognitive abilities, such as anticipation and decision-making, as well as their motor skills, like keyboard and mouse movements. Performance is also influenced by the specific game title and its demands. Differentiating between outcome performance (e.g., game score) and action performance (e.g., reaction time and mouse control) is important in assessing esports performance. However, there is a lack of research examining the indirect variables, such as mental well-being and cognitive function, that contribute to specific action performance indicators.

The review followed established guidelines and included studies that focused on healthy individuals over the age of 12 engaging in esports and various forms of physical activity or exercise.

The search for relevant studies identified a total of 1,142 articles, which were screened based on predefined eligibility criteria, and 6 that were included for review. The analysis focused on the outcomes of exercise on in-game performance, and a narrative synthesis was conducted to summarize the characteristics of the studies and the intervention types. The review also assessed the risk of bias within the selected studies using a standardized assessment tool.

The results of the systematic review will contribute to the understanding of the impact of exercise on esports performance. They will also shed light on player attitudes and perceptions regarding the role of exercise in enhancing performance. This information can inform the development of guidelines and training schedules for esports players to optimize their performance while promoting their health and well-being.

Six studies were included in the review, four of which used online questionnaires to collect data, while two utilized randomized exercise interventions. The sample sizes varied, ranging from 18 to 1,772 participants, with a majority being male. The studies evaluated the impact of physical activity or exercise on esports performance through experimental interventions, correlations between physical activity/exercise frequency and player level, and player perceptions of the impact.

Clinician takeaways:

  1. Experimental exercise interventions: Two studies included in the review examined the effects of acute exercise on esports performance. One study found that a 15-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session improved the capacity to eliminate targets by 9% and increased accuracy of attacks by 75%. This suggests that a single session of exercise prior to gaming may have a positive impact on performance.
  2. Correlations between physical activity/exercise and player level: One study reported a weak positive correlation between physical activity frequency and player in-game rank. Players in the top 10% of in-game ranks participated in more physical activity compared to those in lower ranks. However, the correlation was small, and the relationship may be influenced by other factors.
  3. Player perceptions: Several studies assessed player perceptions of the impact of physical activity on esports performance. While some participants perceived exercise to have a positive effect, others reported no effect or even a negative effect. It’s important to consider individual differences and subjective perceptions when exploring the relationship between exercise and performance.

Overall, the evidence suggests that acute exercise prior to gaming may have a positive impact on esports performance. However, more research is needed to better understand the specific exercise protocols and long-term effects on performance. Individual preferences and perceptions should also be taken into account when designing interventions or providing recommendations to esports players.

McNulty, C., Jenny, S. E., Leis, O., Poulus, D., Sondergeld, P., & Nicholson, M. (2023). Physical Exercise and Performance in Esports Players: An Initial Systematic Review, Journal of Electronic Gaming and Esports1(1), jege.2022-0014. Retrieved May 17, 2023, from

Leave a Reply

Dr. Jennifer Thai


Name Surname

The largest collection of gaming-specific health, fitness, and performance information on the internet, brought to you by the experts currently working in the industry with top-tier esport organizations.

Organizations that have benefited from the expertise of our authors include Cloud 9, Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, FNATIC, G2, TSM, and more.