Raising Healthy Kids in a Fortnite World

Raising Healthy Kids in a Fortnite World

by Jeff Roux B.P.E.; CSCS; TSCC Gold

They say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and that, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

This is nowhere more accurate than in today’s pop culture and politics where many things are polarizing. New ideas and issues catch the cultural zeitgeist and grab people’s attention then, like a giant human magnet, some people are pulled toward them and some are repulsed.

This phenomenon is even more true in today’s digital culture where going viral no longer requires a hazmat suit and a quarantine, but instead invades all aspects of social media, day to day conversation and almost every joke on late night television.

Similarly, there are many ways for people to compete, to show their skills, to stimulate their competitive spirit, or in some cases, provide an avenue of fun, activity and exercises. People migrate to specific sports or activites for different reasons.

For most, Hockey still dominates our Canadian culture but there are many other sports and activities that attract different folks with different strokes. It seems however there is one activity, one game, one obsession that is taking over everywhere, that every kid is interested in, that is part of almost every kid conversation in 2018; …..and, there are dances.

That game, of course, is Fortnite.

Since its September 2017 release it has taken the world by storm, downloaded over 125 Million times (and counting) often with millions of people playing at once.  The game fad is not new, nor is the search for hot new trends and forms of entertainment in the world of pop culture.

We innately have a grass is always greener desire for the next best thing. Occasionally something comes along that truly becomes an outlier and changes the game forever and like it or not, Fortnite is everywhere. Sure, the dances are fun and helps keeps kids moving but what is it about this game that is mesmerizing every kid with a device, any device?

There was a time when there was a constant battle to keep kids from playing video games. The battle to get kids off the couch, away from the device and moving more often came down to playing the ultimate parent card but never really getting kids to buy-in. Now, gaming has evolved into competitive “E-sports” which goes way beyond entertainment and a way to waste time and has become a lucrative industry. Experts are even making 6-figure monthly incomes for others to WATCH them play games online, yep, you heard me. E-sports events are selling out stadiums and pay-per-view venues, colleges are now offering scholarships for E-sports teams. Durham College is building a new E-sports Arena and there is even discussion about E-sports making their way into becoming an Olympic event. And, now people are actually hiring video game coaches like they would hire personal trainers.


 The Carrot or the Stick

I may be a NOOB when it comes to Fortnite, but I am hoping to use what I know to help motivate kids to still want to keep moving and find a way to fit a healthy lifestyle into their busy lives. In Life and in Fortnite we all want to keep getting better because the alternative is to get worse. Just like the game is built to learn, evolve and allow players to get better as they gain experience and progress through the game, health, fitness and performance works the same way. The specific goals may be different but ultimately we are all trying to get better. So sit back, grab a Chug Jug and at least hear me out.

They say, if you can’t beat them, join them. If kids are going to keep playing video games, we need to find a way to also ensure they stay healthy. Maybe you can even use the motivation that being healthier, better fueled and well rested will improve their performance in video games, that way everyone wins.

Rather than using the stick and simply stating the obvious and saying video games are bad, time is better spent playing outside, reading books, exercising etc. I have decided to jump on the wave, and instead come up with a plan for parents to use this Fortnite phenomenon as a carrot to help motivate kids to also focus on their mental and physical health.

The answer – trick them.

We all have dreams. The dream of becoming a pro athlete is not for everyone but, technically anyone could become a pro gamer.

Be Like NINJA!

Not like, an actual Ninja of course. Ninja is the most famous gamer in the world right now and everyone’s Fortnite role model. He a lifelong gamer, but he is careful to remind his fans that he did well in school, played soccer and other sports, attended (and finished college) and had a job as he perfected his craft, prioritized the important things in his life and now makes $500K/month playing games.

Tick. Tock.

The goal is to get a little better every day; at school, in your sport, with your fitness, with your relationships, and yes,

with Fortnite. If you manage your time and energy right, it can all work together. Each day has 24 hours. Each week has 168. Finding a way to prioritize time to get kids up and get moving for 3-4 of them should not be difficult. Determining what to eliminate from your schedule instead and finding the expertise and motivation is often more of the problem. Being efficient with their time, eating well, exercising in a program that makes the best use of their time (not wasting it standing around taking to their friends about Fortnite) will help them get back to their homework and then back to their Fortnite game while still leaving time to get to bed early.

Make a schedule, balance out the time and stick to it!

Sleep is Where the Magic Happens

Don’t sacrifice sleep for games. Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself, if we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t perform well. We all know that sleep is important and that we need it, but do we know why? The effect of sleep on performance has become a topic of great interest. Scientific evidence clearly shows a relationship between critical sleep factors (sleep length, sleep quality & sleep phases) and human performance.

The 2 hormones that control appetite, ghrelin (induces hunger) and leptin (suppresses it). When you are sleep deprived your body produces MORE leptin and LESS ghrelin which typically leads to not eating enough one day and too much the next. It also causes cravings for starchy carbs and sugars vs. high quality whole foods. Inadequate sleep also leads to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) that causes the body to conserve energy and hold onto fat during waking hours. If we don’t sleep well, we don’t eat well.

The lack of sleep or cumulative sleep debt is associated with changes in mood, concentration, motivation, endurance and recovery that have a negative effect on athletic performance, school  and any mental and physical demands. It also puts athletes at risk for overtraining/under-recovery. Ideal sleep amounts are in the range of between 8-10 hours of sleep each night plus a 30 minute nap if you can make it happen (You’re Welcome!).  It is important that each person determines the amount of sleep they need per week.  (eg: 8 hours/night = 56 hours per week)  You should be looking to get between 56-70 hours of sleep each week, including naps.

Fuel Yourself Don’t Fool Yourself

Don’t fall into the trap of the typical gamer diet. Mountain Dew and Jalepeno Cheetos will not cut it Performance nutrition quite simply depends on sound principals of basic nutrition. The healthiest of diets are composed of real, whole, unprocessed foods which includes a variety of nutrient dense whole foods containing high-quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants which will provide the body with the raw materials needed to support the body in order to enhance performance and optimize body composition and health.

Balance is key. Daily food intake should include whole “real” foods containing healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat. Never eliminate or greatly reduce any one of these nutrients (such as no carb/low fat, or high protein/high fat etc.) instead focus on the quality of the carbohydrate, protein and fat.

  • Carbohydrates = Energy;
  • Protein = Building Blocks of cells (muscle)
  • (Healthy) Fats = Help with Energy, Cell and Nerve Function
  • Mental Focus

Ultimately anything that takes away from mental focus can be detrimental to school success, athletic success, relationship success (with family, girlfriend/boyfriend), and performance success (in sports, video games and life). Exercise, sleep, nutrition, and hydration all have a significant effect on mental focus.

If you can learn to balance all of these aspects together, stay active, stay healthy, keep reading, keep learning, and play a dominant game of Fortnite, you have definitely earned the opportunity to show off some sweet dance celebrations.

Don’t worry, there will not be Personal Gaming Coaches at TWIST anytime soon, but hopefully we can continue to help keep all of the kids who want to play, healthy, happy, and having fun at the same time.

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