In the 50s Eliot Hearst printed the results of a study in "Chess Life and Review" (A private publication by I A Horowitz editor later merged into the USCF's monthly magazine, and later renamed "Chess Life") that showed the impact playing chess had on things like BP and heart rate.

Are there any more current studies that elaborate on those and extend the study to other ways chess affects humans?

Especially interested in more long term items as well as game time impacts that one could prepare for in advance.

  • 1
    What is "CL&R" ?
    – Darren H
    Feb 22, 2020 at 15:58
  • chess life and review = an earlier chess mag that changed its name to chess life and perhaps that got changed again later on Feb 22, 2020 at 16:01
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    Just a reminder: After your question the other day, I created the studies-published-report tag, which Rewan edited the tags for. The "studies" tag is for chess problems. Its tag definition is: "Questions relating to learning about chess or analyzing positions on the chessboard. Not to be confused with the concept of an "endgame study", a kind of chess puzzle which doesn't have it's own tag yet." Feb 22, 2020 at 16:10
  • 1
    I plead senior moment:) thanks for the reminder. Feb 22, 2020 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


I found a study from 2015 that seems to go into a lot of various aspects of chess and how it affects us physically.

"Biochemistry and Psychology of Chess and Classical Physical Exercise:Concurring or Conflicting Evidence?"

I am going to block-quote their "Abstract", which gives an overview, but you might want to read the full paper, which is only 10 pages long. It is fairly interesting.


Chess is a competitive sport in the classical meaning of the word. One of the most important factors for chess and sport competence is the accumulated time of training. In order to obtain a high level of competence, chess layers and athletes alike must spend up 10 years of specific training.

In chess and classical sport energy needed for brain activity is first derived from glycogen stores in brain, muscles and liver and later from adipose tissue. Both, chess and classical sport rely on shared energy from glycogen and fat.When the brain needs additional energy, muscles and liver share energy with the brain. When muscles need additional energy, brain complies with the request of muscles. Energy expenditure, O2 uptake and CO2 production during chess games are similar to those obtained during a marathon. Mental and physical fatigue begin with similar metabolic states: deprivation of glycogen. During competitive chess, athletes must be in good physical condition.

Mental profiles of chess players and other athletes correlate with processes such as attention, conflict control,memory, motivation and recognition.

In chess there exists no gender-specific excellence; glycogen availability, however, is less developed in female chess players.

In chess and in classical sports, the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles cooperate in complete harmony. The brain commands everything: in chess the figures, in sport the cellular receptors (baro-, lactate-, gluco-, metabo-,chemo-, thermo-, respiratory-) “send” signals via eyes or metabolic changes to the brain. The brain then decides,what to do: in chess, the player moves a figure; in sports, muscles react according to demand.

Physical exercise or chess must be defined by a motor activity completely controlled by the central nervous system (CNS) in combination with a specific competence. In chess as well as in physical exercise, physical stress prepares brain to cognitive stimulation.

With respect to biochemical, physiological, neuronal and psychological aspects, chess is equals classical physical exercise and must be recognized as sport.

Here is another article, "7 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Chess", that lists various benefits that can are certainly physically related, and cites the sources.


"Does chess improve our intelligence?" is about most commonly studied long term effect.

"Are certain foods or drinks better to consume than others when playing chess?" has suggestions for preparation.

Studies measuring physiology of people playing chess found the following. Effect usual depends on engagement. Theta power increases with time pressure Santos Villafaina 2019 and with concentration Fuentes-García Dec 2019. Theta power adapts to difficulty in successful players. Alpha increases with difficulty. Fuentes-García Jan 2019 HRV lowers with concentration Fuentes-García Dec 2019 / internal load J. P. Fuentes 2018, difficulty J. Fuentes-García Feb 2019 and hopelessness Schwarz, Alfons M. MD 2003.

"In addition, pre-activation was detected in pre-game measure, suggesting that the prefrontal cortex might be preparatory activated." J. P. Fuentes 2018

Heart rate fluctuates based on exciting events María J. Leone 2012 and increases during game. "These results suggest a stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system with no changes in the parasympathetic system." "The respiratory exchange ratio was rather elevated (over 0.89) at the start and significantly decreased during the game (0.75 at the end), indicating that energy expenditure progressively switched from carbohydrate to lipid oxidation." Troubat (2009)


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