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Opinion: Physical activity - the future of a sustainable esports career?

By André Baumann, Grassroots Esports Alliance

The importance of physical activity in esports has gained traction in recent years, especially when it comes to grassroots esports organised in sports clubs. Physical activity is something that we perceive as a positive element that creates a positive esports environment and promote wellbeing among esports athletes. By being active in their local esports club, we hope that participants who would otherwise not do much exercise will adopt a pattern of regular physical activity for the rest of their lives.

In Norway, almost all of the sports clubs with esports offer physical activity in conjunction with the esports training. In practice, the clubs implement 30 to 45 minutes of accessible physical activity before playing esports. Examples of different types of physical activity are reaction-type training, ball games, mobility exercises, and play-type exercises. The main argument for offering these activities is that most of them are very inclusive and do not have any prerequisites for physical fitness. They are fun, engaging and appeal to esports athletes who might not enjoy traditional sports. As such, this aspect of the esports training is quite popular. 

Photo 1. Photo from a physical activity session at one of the Grassroots Esports Alliances’ members clubs, Einherjar, portraying a form of low threshold activity.

However, not all clubs have facilities, competent volunteers, or a structure for implementing the above-mentioned activities. Some clubs note difficulties with organising physical activity, with reasons such as lack of facilities, not enough time, or not finding a motivating enough activity for the esports athletes. The underlying cause of this may be the volunteers’ need for more training. Many of these barriers can be overcome with qualified efforts to implement different variations and durations of physical activity. 

There may be synergies between the sports club and the other departments with traditional sports that esports can benefit from. Umbrella esports organisations can also help grassroots initiatives with tools and expertise. For example, The Grassroots Esports Alliance has developed handbooks including example activities from their member clubs. These resources are shared with everyone and can assist the clubs in choosing and implementing their preferred physical activity.

In the future, there is a need to develop a best practice for physical activity in grassroots esports for enjoyment and performance enhancement. These recommendations should be evidence-based, requiring more research on physical activity and exercise for grassroots esports.

Looking at the current research
There might be a common misconception that physical activity is unnecessary for health and performance in esports. However, recent studies on esports athletes show that the prevalence of pain and injuries is high in esports athletes (DiFrancisco-Donoghue, 2022; Lam, 2022; Lindberg, 2020). Participating and competing in esports requires an extended amount of sitting time, which is correlated to increased health risks (Anderson, 2019). In the worst-case scenario, top players might have to play up to ten hours per day to be competitive, consequently leading to injury and health deterioration (Heath, 2020; Rong, 2020). 

Positive effects of physical activity
Regular physical activity is shown to have a positive effect on cognition, such as increased memory and executive function (Erickson, 2019), and this is likely to be the case for esports as well (McNulty, 2023). To combat the side effects of the passivity of playing esports, athletes should participate in regular physical activity. Esports athletes themselves report the benefits of physical activity, such as better mental health and increased wellbeing (Baumann, 2022). Few studies have measured physical activity in esports athletes, and there are conflicting results if they reach the recommended guidelines for physical activity (Bayrakdar, 2020; Rudolf et al., 2020). However, the question is, how can one engage esports athletes in physical activity and get the minimum recommended level of 75 minutes of vigorous physical exercise or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (Bull et al., 2020)?

Physical activity in grassroots esports
From a grassroots esports perspective, many clubs with a physical location have solved this issue – they have incorporated a split between physical activity and playing esports. Most grassroots esports in sports clubs start their esports training with an element of physical activity for 30 to 45 minutes. The remaining time, about 75 to 90 minutes, is dedicated to esports. Examples of physical activities with a low barrier of entry are different exercise games and other lower-threshold activities. These activities engage everyone, making it less intimidating to enjoy physical activity. Through these activities, esports athletes can bond in ways different from esports. 

The way forward: a framework for physical activity in esports
How can one further improve physical activity in esports? After looking at the existing literature and collecting experiences from grassroots esports initiatives, certain elements stand out as essential for developing physical activity in esports, as shown in Figure 1. A conscious and strategic approach is necessary for the development of physical activity in esports.

Figure 1. The figure proposes vital aspects of improving physical activity in esports, with key components such as communication, education, engagement, investigation and development.


In summary, esports athletes will benefit from regular physical activity from both a health and performance perspective. It is important to remember that esports athletes enjoy being active and that their supporting structures can help facilitate physical activity. For esports athletes with long careers, sustaining the mind and body for several years will be essential for their long-term health and performance. 



Anderson, E. D., J.L. (2019). Physical activity, exercise, and chronic diseases: A brief review. Sports Medicine and Health Science, 1(1).    

Baumann, A., Mentzoni, R. A., Erevik, E., & Pallesen, S. (2022). A qualitative study on Norwegian esports students' sleep, nutritional and physical activity habits and the link to health and performance. International Journal of Esports, 1(1).        

Bayrakdar, A., Yildiz, Y. & Bayraktar, I. (2020). Do e-athletes move? A study on physical activity level and body composition in elite e-sports. Physical Education of Students.     

Bull, F. C., Al-Ansari, S. S., Biddle, S., Borodulin, K., Buman, M. P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J. P., Chastin, S., Chou, R., Dempsey, P. C., DiPietro, L., Ekelund, U., Firth, J., Friedenreich, C. M., Garcia, L., Gichu, M., Jago, R., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Lambert, E., Leitzmann, M., Milton, K., Ortega, F. B., Ranasinghe, C., Stamatakis, E., Tiedemann, A., Troiano, R. P., van der Ploeg, H. P., Wari, V., & Willumsen, J. F. (2020, Dec). World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Br J Sports Med, 54(24), 1451-1462.               

DiFrancisco-Donoghue, J., Werner, W.G., Douris, P.C. & Zwibel, H. (2022). Esports players, got muscle? Competitive video game players' physical activity, body fat, bone mineral content, and muscle mass in comparison to matched controls. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 11(6). 

Erickson, K. I., Hillman, C., Stillman, C.M., Ballard, R.M., Bloodgood, B., Conroy, D.E., Macko, R., Marquez, D.X., Petruzzello, S.J. & Powell, K.E. (2019). Physical Activity, Cognition, and Brain Outcomes: A Review of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(6).  

Heath, J. (2020). Uzi retires from professional League of Legends due to poor health. Retrieved 18.10 from

Lam, W. K., Liu, R.T., Chen, B., Huang, XZ., Yi, J. & Wong, D.WC. (2022). Health Risks and Musculoskeletal Problems of Elite Mobile Esports Players: a Cross-Sectional Descriptive Study. Sports Med - Open, 8(65).  

Lindberg, L., Nielsen, S.B, Damgaard, M., Sloth, O.R., Rathleff, M.S. & Straszek, C.L. (2020). Musculoskeletal pain is common in competitive gaming: a cross-sectional study among Danish esports athletes. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 6(1).

McNulty, C., Jenny, S. E., Leis, O., Poulus, D., Sondergeld, P., & Nicholson, M. (2023). Physical Exercise and Performance in Esports Players: An Initial Systematic Review. Journal of Electronic Gaming and Esports, 1(1).

Rong, C. (2020). 'Uzi Out': League of Legends best ADC gamer Uzi retires due to injuries and diabetes. Retrieved 18.10 from

Rudolf, K., Bickmann, P., Frobose, I., Tholl, C., Wechsler, K., & Grieben, C. (2020, Mar 13). Demographics and Health Behavior of Video Game and eSports Players in Germany: The eSports Study 2019. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 17(6).

Posted on 06/12/2023 by André Baumann, Grassroots Esports Alliance


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