The Association between Esports Participation, Health and Physical Activity Behaviour

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The Association between Esports Participation, Health and Physical Activity Behaviour

Plenty of stereotypes exist about the amount (or lack) of physical activity gamers engage in. While research shows that physical activity improves cognition generally, less research has been done specifically in esports competitors. As a baseline, we first need to investigate how active or inactive sports competitors are, as examined in this 2020 study from Dr. Mike Trotter, Dr. Tristan Coulter, Dr. Paul Davis, Dr. Dylan Poulus, and Dr. Remco Polman.

It’s important to contextualize this information with some caveats. While BMI is a commonly-used metric, it’s an imperfect one when it comes to assessment bodyfat percentage. Further, we know that bodyfat percentage is not the end-all, be-all indicator of overall health. However, within the context of assessing population-wide activity levels, it can provide us with some insights useful for identifying general health and fitness concerns.

In this study, researchers investigated the association between various health factors (obesity, physical activity, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and perceived health) and esports players’ in-game rank. The study surveyed 2459 participants, with 1772 (72.1%) providing enough information for analysis. Participants lived in 65 countries with the largest groups coming from the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, and the UK. The study used self-reported measures to assess general health (SF-1), drinking and smoking frequency, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, player in-game rank, and esports frequency. Data was collected through Qualtrics. The study aimed to investigate the relationships between esports and general health, drinking and smoking behavior, body weight, physical activity, player skill, and esports frequency.

The study investigated the relationship between health behaviors and BMI in a sample of esports players. The data showed that player in-game rank was positively associated with esports frequency and negatively correlated with BMI. Esports frequency was positively associated with higher levels of perceived physical activity and general health. Smoking and drinking frequency were associated with higher levels of perceived physical activity and lower general health. The chi-square test showed significant differences in the proportion of participants in each BMI category compared to the global population data and the sample’s respective countries. 19.7% of the players met the recommended physical activity guidelines, while 3.7% smoked daily and 0.5% drank daily. 

The results from the MANOVA and ANOVA showed that the players’ BMI category was significantly associated with perceived physical activity, days of physical activity, general health, drinking frequency, and player in-game rank, but not with esports frequency and smoking frequency. Post-hoc comparisons revealed that esports players in higher obesity categories had lower perceived physical activity levels and lower general health scores compared to those in the normal and pre-obese categories.

This study compared the BMI, physical activity, smoking and drinking frequency, perceived general health, and practicing behavior of esports players of different ability levels. Results showed that esports players had a higher likelihood of being categorized as normal weight, pre-obese, and obese class 2 and 3 compared to the global population reference data. A healthier BMI was linked to higher perceived levels of physical activity and general health. The percentage of players ranked in the top 10% reported being significantly more physically active than the lower 90%. 

As esports player rank increased, the number of days spent playing increased, but this was inversely correlated with actual BMI. Esports player rank was not linked to drinking, smoking, or general health. The global sample of players showed a higher number of players being considered severely and morbidly obese. The study also found that higher BMI was inversely associated with perceived physical activity level, days of physical activity per week, and perceived general health. The majority of esports players reported not drinking alcohol, and the majority also reported not smoking. The results suggest that strategies should be developed to support esports players with high BMIs.

  1. Esports players were more likely to be categorized as normal weight or obesity class 2 and 3 compared to international reference data.
  2. A higher percentage of esports players were non-smokers (92%) and non-drinkers (65.1%) compared to the general population.
  3. Most esports players did not meet international physical activity guidelines.
  4. Higher-ranked esports players were found to be more physically active.
  5. Player in-game rank did not have a significant impact on smoking or drinking frequency.
  6. Increased physical activity could positively impact both the health and performance of esports players.

Trotter MG, Coulter TJ, Davis PA, Poulus DR, Polman R. The Association between Esports Participation, Health and Physical Activity Behaviour. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 8;17(19):7329. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197329. PMID: 33049914; PMCID: PMC7579013.

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