Experiment examines whether exercise can sharpen the brightest minds of competitive gamers
The ground-breaking results of a one-of-a-kind experiment that investigated whether exercise could sharpen the brightest minds of competitive gamers have been revealed in a new documentary.
In a Prime Video documentary, Mind Games: The Experiment, several high-level players incorporated physical conditioning into their training regimens for four months.
The film features Danish international chess master Kasa Corley, Tokyo-based mahjong player Ryoi Hirano, professional Street Fighter player Sherry Nyan of California and memory game participant Ben Pridmore of Derby.
The experiment showed that exercise can significantly improve cognitive function and increase mental performance.
The ground-breaking results of a one-of-a-kind experiment that investigated whether exercise could sharpen the brightest minds of competitive gamers have been revealed in a new documentary, Mind Games: The Experiment (pictured with international chess master Danish Cassa Corley)
Each player followed a training program designed by runner-turned-international coach Andrew Castor.
The program included cardio and moderate strength training and increased the gamer’s exercise level to 150 minutes per week.
After four months of training, each mental game athlete competed in a tournament to see if their minds had improved.
Professor Brendan Stubbs, who is a renowned researcher of movement and mind, designed and conducted the experiment.
Prime Video documentary, Mind Games: The Experiment, explores the relationship between mental performance and exercise (Pro Street Fighter player Sherry Nhan from California)
Memory player Ben Pridmore of Derby has also incorporated fitness into his training regime
It measured participants’ mental improvement based on their performance on mind games, cognitive tests and well-being questionnaires over a four-month study period.
Professor Stubbs said: “We all know that exercise is good for our mental and physical health, but the effect on cognitive function is less well studied.
“We wanted to study the effect of exercise on people who depend on their cognitive abilities – competitive mind players.
“Our results show a significant improvement in their cognitive functioning, including their concentration levels and problem-solving ability.
“Exercise stimulates brain cell growth and rapidly increases blood flow to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, mechanisms that allow us to better store memories, process information and solve problems quickly.
High Level Mahjong is a tile-based game that was developed in 19th century China, player Ryoei Hirano from Tokyo also increased his physical activity
“If exercise can significantly improve the mental performance of professional players, imagine what it can do for us.
“From improving focus when preparing for an exam or increasing mindfulness before a work presentation, exercise can really boost brain power.”
In addition to the exercise improving participants’ cognitive function and gaming ability, Professor Stubbs also found that gamers’ mental well-being improved significantly, with average mood scores improving by 31 percent.
The average score for gamers’ mental state at the start of the study was a below-average 58, and at the end it reached a high of 76, indicating a significant effect of exercise on your mental well-being.
At the same time, problem-solving ability improved by 9 percent, short-term memory increased by 12 percent, and processing speed and attention improved by 10 percent.
Smart gamers with problem-solving skills improved by 9 percent, short-term memory increased by 12 percent, and processing speed and attention improved by 10 percent.
Group trust levels increased by 44 percent, concentration improved by 33 percent, and anxiety levels dropped by 43 percent.
Research has shown that exercise can be just as effective at stimulating the brain as learning a second language, reading daily, playing a new musical instrument or doing a daily puzzle.
The study’s lead trainer, Andrew, said: “These results are surprising and show the power of exercise.
“Many of the gamers could not jog for more than a minute at the start of the study, so their training programs had to be moderate.
“150 minutes a week sounds like a lot, but if you break it down it can be 5 sets of 30 minutes.
“Regardless of your fitness level, the mental benefits of exercise are available to everyone.”