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Poker Mental Game & Planning

The Health Risks of Sitting for Poker Players

2,986 Views on 18/6/19

By understanding the risks of prolonged sitting and taking action you will be able to protect yourself from feeling prematurely old

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Online poker players are notorious for spending long hours sat in front of their screen. Often this is accompanied with a desire to avoid doing any physical exercise, something many professionals are even guilty of. 

This is not something you should take lightly if you are serious about maintaining good health into your middle years because the health risks are numerous. Highlighting just how serious some of the potential problems are is a good way to change your mindset and attitude towards what is, to some extent, an unavoidably inactive lifestyle.

By understanding the risks of prolonged sitting and taking action you will be able to protect yourself from feeling prematurely old and put yourself in prime position to play your A-game.

Taking Better Care of Yourself

This article is not intended to be an ergonomics primer - you can check that out here - we are going to review some of the ideas behind why you should be taking this most seriously.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere for the last 10 years then it’s almost certain that you already accept that inactivity is not a good lifestyle choice. What science is only really starting to fully understand now is that sitting for long periods without taking breaks causes irreversible damage.

It has now been proven beyond reasonable doubt that remaining in the sitting position for a long time day-after-day puts your cardiovascular system at extreme risk to such an extent that even by following recommended guidelines for exercise you will never repair the damage. To clarify, this means that every day that you do this you are killing yourself slowly with no recourse.

Your heart, lungs, and all your veins and blood vessels will restrict, eventually putting you at risk of a whole host of unpleasant health issues.

You are also damaging your mind by effectively being lazy. When stress levels rise and your body begins to ache how on earth do you expect to play your best game? This is only the immediate impact. By living this lifestyle of sitting all day every day you will be at a proveabley higher risk of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Medical journals around the world have demonstrated this for decades.

As if sitting all day wasn’t bad enough also consider the fact that most poker players are spending this time alone. Isolating yourself socially is probably worse than inactivity for your mental health. You might have the mindset that your youth will see you through the tough years grinding ridiculous hours, but eventually it will catch up with you. Also consider your love for the game. One of the first pieces of advice budding professionals often read is that the hobby you love will all of a sudden turn into a job, and not necessarily one that you will relish with the same gusto you had when you were dying to get home from your old job to grind for a few hours before bed.

It’s not only your mental state and cardiovascular health at risk. What about your muscular-skeletal system? Without any kind of muscular effort being applied every day you will simply wither away. A bad back and achy legs will become the norm and before long you’ll be sitting in all kinds of awkward positions to avoid pain which will drain you even faster than before.

Take Action Now

All we are interested in here is our health and how much money we can make playing poker. The good news is that by moderating our sitting in a perfect ergonomic environment we can look after both factors.

Let us consider a Taoist lesson on how stress affects the body. The analogy is that of cement being poured into your being. When it first arrives it is wet and malleable, and therefore easy to manipulate and ultimately remove. Leave it a while though, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to shift. Ignore it for years and you will soon see a number of stress related problems that modern medicine warns you about on a regular basis.

Stress is a killer, and not only for your win rate.

The lesson here is to break up your sessions and take action with any one of a number of different methods. YouTube can provide everything you need with choices ranging from yoga, tai chi, to simple breathing exercises. Even leaving the house for a 10 minute walk will work wonders for your stress levels. 

Don’t let stress build up longer than you need to. You will reap the rewards with both your health a long-term performance at the tables.

The Hormonal Connection

The endocrine system in the body is responsible for producing our hormones which ultimately control our health and how we feel. Cortisol is the hormone which is most closely linked with stress and is a key marker for how much of a problem we have.

In a bad situation, high cortisol levels leave us feeling trapped in what we know as the fight or flight response. In this state of mind our endocrine system will fire up in a way that leaves us unable to use the logical part of our mind effectively. At the tables we are convinced that we are playing our best game, but this is simply an illusion

All of this can be instigated by prolonged sitting!

While it’s a stretch too far to expect poker players to stay away from long hours in front of their screens, at least now you can now have some insight into why this is bad and take steps to moderate your schedules. Of course, tournament players have some serious issues here, but at least you will have five minutes every hour to do something. Tournament players can also plan their events better over a working week, instead of cramming way too much into single days only to take time off later on.


Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More

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