Saturday, October 12, 2013

5 Health Benefits of Board Games

The following is a guest post by Kathy Flute:

Board games date as far back as 2500 B.C.E., and they continue to fill closets in households throughout the world today. Whether playing a classic game like Monopoly or newer names on the market like Settlers of Catan, board games entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play. However, board games provide much more than just entertainment. In fact, these games beneficially impact both health and development at any age. If this is news to you, here’s what you should know.

One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive decline, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer's. Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially benefit from playing board games. These areas of the brain are responsible for complex thought and memory formation, and their decline is one of the first stages of dementia and Alzheimer's. While those who are elderly show the most benefit from activities like board games, never forget that (like any healthful activity) the earlier you start, the greater the benefits received.

Blood Pressure

Board games also provide health benefits through an often overlooked side effect of many games, laughing. If you need to lower your blood pressure, try choosing a board game that’s more about entertainment than competition. Laughing has been shown to increase endorphins, which are chemicals that create a feeling of happiness. This release of endorphins help muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which in turn can lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with greater risk of artery damage, heart disease and stroke.

Along with reducing blood pressure, board games may also boost your immune system. Research has shown that negativity and stress can reduce your ability to fight disease. Positive feelings, like the laughter and enjoyment that often comes with board games, counteracts these effects by releasing neuropeptides that fight stress and boost the immune system.

Coordination and Dexterity
Many board games require the use of fine motor skills to pick up or move pieces, actions that take both coordination and dexterity. Regular practice and activity improve these basic skills, which is important for children, people with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly and those recovering from accidents. Board games make a helpful addition to occupational therapy treatments, as well as work well in areas like special needs classrooms to help improve muscle and nerve function over time.

Child Development
Board games play an integral role in child health and brain development. Board games help children develop logic and reasoning skills, improve critical thinking and boost spatial reasoning. Encouraging children to play different types of board games can also increase verbal and communication skills, while helping develop attention spans and the ability to focus for longer periods of time (not to mention the importance of teamwork). Games like Monopoly (Jr) are great for math skills as well!

With so many benefits, it's easy to see why board games have continued to find a place in homes throughout the world for so long. Next time you pick up a board game to play with your friends or family, remember that you're not only having fun, you're also improving your health (and theirs)! 

Kathy Flute is a mother of three earning her master's in special education who enjoys writing articles about family, teamwork, and the Top 10 Special Education Masters Degree Programs (On Campus).

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