10 Health Benefits of Playing Board Games

In recent years, the popularity of board games has skyrocketed. Of course games like Monopoly and Life have been around for a while (and I’m sure they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon), but within the last five years or so, board games have had new life breathed into them with an influx of Euro Style games like Settlers of Catan. Why have board games become so popular? There is a growing desire to interact and socialize with family and friends without screens getting in the way. Board games are the perfect way to do that because you have to be present if you don’t want to lose. Also, board games are just plain fun! Board games are a great form of entertainment and just like there is a TV show for everyone, there is a board game for everyone.

So why am I telling you all of this? Basically, if you haven’t already hopped on the board game bandwagon, you really ought to. Did you know that there are actually quite a few health benefits associated with playing board games? Yes, that’s right! Playing board games is not only fun, but healthy!

1. Strengthen Relationships

This may seem counter-intuitive if you’re playing with a bunch of really competitive people, but it’s true. One of the best ways to develop trust and intimacy with another human being is to share laughter and fun. Having a regular game night with your loved ones can be a great way to strengthen your bond with them. I try to get my family together semi-regularly for a board game night and while arguments do break out sometimes, we’re all usually ready for the next game night shortly after. In addition to strengthening your existing relationships, board games can help create new friendships. We’ve seen plenty of complete strangers become good friends with a little help from gaming.

2. Improve Social Skills

Remember what I said about no screens getting in the way? Exactly! I’m sure we’ve all heard those accusations that young people don’t know how to socialize because of modern technology. Play more board games with them! Additionally, not all board games are competitive. There are plenty of cooperative board games like Pandemic or Castle Panic that can be great for team-building and teaching cooperation. Playing board games can also help ease social anxiety. We’ve had a lot of regular customers tell us that they’ve been able to overcome crippling social anxiety when they’re playing board games with others.

3. Laughter is Good for Us

They say that laughter is the best medicine, so it logically follows that playing board games may be the best medicine too, right? Maybe that’s leaping to conclusions, but science does show that laughter is good for us. Laughter releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemical in our brains. These are the same chemicals that are released after physical activity like exercise or a physical contact with another person. These “feel-good” chemicals not only make us happier, they also make us more tolerant of pain. To induce laughter why not start a game of Coup or Cash ‘n Guns?

4. Reduce Stress

All of this quality time with the people you love most and the release of all of those endorphins will hopefully lead to reduced stress. In fact, according to a study from RealNetworks Inc., 64 percent of those surveyed said they played games to relax while 53 percent said they played games for stress relief. If you’ve had a hard day at work, perhaps a quick game might be the perfect way to de-stress.

5. Lower Blood Pressure

In addition to reducing stress, endorphins can be helpful in lowering blood pressure. It is believed that endorphins help to relax the muscles, thus allowing blood to flow easier, which is likely to lower blood pressure. This, of course, will help lower the risks of problems associated with high blood pressure like heart disease.

6. Can be Therapeutic

With all of the above benefits, it naturally follows that board games could be used as a type of therapy. Board games can help increase motor skills and basic functioning for those who are mentally or physically disabled. Just check out what The Bodhana Group does using tabletop gaming to help kids!

7. Teaches Goal-Setting and Patience

If you want to win, you’ll need to set goals and then be patient as you work to achieve them. Most modern games require a lot of strategy. Almost every turn you need to reassess the situation and maybe even adapt your goals and ultimately your strategies depending on what other players have done since your last turn. This can especially be a great benefit for children (of course you may want to use Catan Junior instead of regular Catan in this case), but I’m sure we all know adults who could use a lesson in patience as well.

8. Stimulates Creativity

There are a lot of board games that require you to build or create something (like Junk Art or Kingdomino) and even board games that require you to use your imagination (like Once Upon a Time or Mysterium). Even putting together a deck for Magic: the Gathering requires a bit of creativity. If you’re into role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons can be one of the most creative games in which players need to put themselves into the shoes of their characters as they play through the game. Getting in touch with your creative side can help bolster your sense of individuality which in turn can boost your self-esteem.

9. Increases Memory and Cognitive Functioning

I’m sure we all know the stereotype that people who play Chess are smart and nerdy, right? Well, there might be a little truth to this stereotype because playing Chess has been proven to improve test scores of middle-schoolers with learning disabilities. Of course different games will involve different skills depending on what the ultimate goal is, but for the most part, board games challenge your problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Each game you play will encourage you to strategize and make calculated decisions to get you closer to winning. Some studies have even shown that board games increase your focus and speed up your response time.

10. Decreases Risk of Mental Disease

Because of your increased brain function, you will be at lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s when you grow older. I’m sure you’ve heard of the studies that show that solving puzzles like crosswords or Sudoku help lower these risks as well, but have you seen this study from The New England Journal of Medicine on board games? In it, 469 people aged 75 and older were asked to list what activities they did in their free time. Ultimately, 124 of them developed dementia, but the study showed that those who listed gaming as one of their activities were less likely to develop dementia.

So there you have it! Just in case you needed any more excuses to make your way out to our cafe, here they are. In fact, maybe even take a lunch break and come grab a sandwich and play a quick game-it’s great for your health after all. In the words of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”