How Do Video Games Affect Your Heart Rate?

By Ian Ragsdale

Updated September 22, 2017

With video game consoles in more than 80 percent of American children’s bedrooms, medical journals and gamer magazines alike are reporting on the potential health risks and benefits of playing video games. Although heart rate is an objective measurement, a rise in heart rate does not always entail an equivalent increase in calorie burn. Anyone experiencing unusually high heart rates while playing video games should seek medical help.

Resting Heart Rate

Any rise in heart rate is measured in comparison to an individual’s resting heart rate. Because resting heart rates vary by age and from person to person, it’s difficult to give an exact assessment of heart rate change during video game play that is applicable to everyone. The following statements are only guidelines for heart rate change.

Seated Video Games

Calm games played while sitting still produce minuscule rises in heart rate. On the other hand, violent, intense or disturbing games have produced reported heart rates up to 40 percent above the resting rate due to adrenaline and stress.

Active Video Games

Lightly active video games like Wii tennis have been shown to raise children’s heart rates by 20 beats per minute, corresponding to an approximately 20 percent rise from the resting heart rate.

Running and Dancing Games

Games requiring full body physical activity, especially mat games like Dance Dance Revolution and Japan’s XaviX J-Mat, have been shown to increase children’s heart rates by 79 beats per minute or almost 100 percent. Such heart rates can approach the American Heart Association’s target rates for vigorous exercise.

Persistent Effects

Studies have also shown that playing video games with violent or disturbing imagery can have long-lasting physiological effects. Teenagers can have higher resting heart rates--and even stronger heart rates during sleep--for hours after playing violent games.