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Are Board games good for our health?


Are board games good for our health

Board games are games that are played by moving any number and style of pieces on a special board marked with an activity. There are countless varieties, and many have been translated into different languages and for different cultures and not to mention special editions.


So, when we think of who may play board games we may think of the usual stereotypes. That board games are for children, retired people, or nerds. Please don’t take offence, I am a self-confessed nerd! However, I know what it’s like to think that playing a board game is a frivolous activity reserved for Christmas or other holidays and there are better or more important things to do.


Nowadays there are such things as board game cafes and they make a refreshing change to socialising in a pub. I learnt how to play risk and monopoly at one such café. Hold on, Monopoly?! I should know how to play monopoly as a grown adult?! After all it’s a classic game that most of us have from childhood. I thought you were supposed to play monopoly in a basic way. Go past go, buy properties until you run out of money and if you get into jail, wait for the all-important jail free card. It turns I have been playing it all wrong! I realised you can make deals and more deals, and the game can last forever and be very tense! One minute you could be bankrupt, another minute you are taking the lead in assets!


Ok so now board games got more fun for me with the eyes and strategy of an adult. But they are still frivolous activities and nothing to do with our health, right?


Wrong!


The results of several randomised controlled trials indicate that playing traditional board games such as chess and monopoly help to improve cognitive decline and depression (1) as well as executive function and attention (2) Surprisingly the participation in more newly developed board games benefit such behavioural modifications such as promotion of healthy eating, smoking cessation and safe sex! (1)


My children had a board game called Greedy gorilla! Despite the negative connotations of the name, it helped them identify ultra processed foods in a fun way and they got to shove the junk food into the gorilla’s mouth to be guzzled up. I was sad to hand it down as I enjoyed playing it too!


Board games can also be an enjoyable and motivational way of learning such as of trivia knowledge and can enhance group bonding, competition and fun (3) After all, healthy relationships is one of the 6 vital pillars to lifestyle medicine.


Mouton et al (4) showed that a giant board intervention for nursing home residents led to increased physical activity, quality of life, balance, gait, and ankle length (4). Time to get the old “twister” game out, don’t you think?


With all the above evidence, maybe board games in the future could be utilised to bring larger communities together and educate on various topics regarding health and wellbeing on a public health level.


For now, I’ll use this knowledge to enjoy playing board games with no guilt!


References

  1. Nakao M. Special series on "effects of board games on health education and promotion" board games as a promising tool for health promotion: a review of recent literature. Biopsychosoc Med. 2019 Feb 19;13:5. doi: 10.1186/s13030-019-0146-3. PMID: 30820242; PMCID: PMC6380050.

  2. Panphunpho S, Thavichachart N, Kritpet T. Positive effects of Ska game practice on cognitive function among older adults. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 Mar;96(3):358-64. PMID: 23539942.

  3. Charlier N, De Fraine B. Game-based learning as a vehicle to teach first aid content: a randomized experiment. J Sch Health. 2013 Jul;83(7):493-9. doi: 10.1111/josh.12057. PMID: 23782092.

  4. Mouton A, Gillet N, Mouton F, et al. Effects of a giant exercising board game intervention on ambulatory physical activity among nursing home residents: a preliminary study. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2017 ;12:847-858. DOI: 10.2147/cia.s134760. PMID: 28579765; PMCID: PMC5446970.

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