Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Surprising Physical Activity Benefits of PokémonGO

Ready… set… PokémonGO!

Since its release date of July 6, 2016, the free downloadable app PokémonGO has taken the nation by storm. Using your smartphone, you get to transport between the real world and virtual world of PokémonGO. Step outside into fresh air and begin your journey of becoming a Trainer where your goal is to find and catch wild, colorful and unique Pokémon. Maps and landmarks from real life can be seen on your phone, and you travel them to create your own daily experience.

“Gotta catch ‘em all” with a Pokéball and catalog them in your Pokédex. Chances are, if you see a group of people walking outside looking at a phone and pointing somewhere nearby – they are closing in on a Pokémon.

Players say that this game brings your childhood dream of becoming a Trainer to reality. But, this game may also have an added health benefit that may surprise both kids and parents: increasing your physical fitness!

As an exercise professional, my message has consistently been to get up out of the chair and get on your feet outdoors for better health. This interactive game requires players to get up, and move around from place to place while looking for the next catch, or letting eggs hatch into interesting characters.

Over the last month, we have noticed more and more families and friend groups outside together walking, cycling and enjoying time outside. The exact location of the Pokémon is not revealed on the phone. As you come close to finding one, you are given clues on how to zero in on it. This means you may zig and zag in your walking path until the creature pops up from the hiding spot. You accumulate lots of extra steps.

What is exciting about this game is that it offers people a means to move and get heart rate up without feeling like its exercise. Did you know:

  • To get eggs to hatch, you may be required to walk 2 to 10 kilometers? That equals 100-550 calories burned for a 140-pound person!
  • You can accumulate thousands of steps toward the 7,000-10,000 steps a day for health and fitness by searching for these Pokémon.
  • PokémonGO has even been used to help sick children in the hospital get out of bed and move around!
  • What we particularly like is that the software of the game is intelligent and will not let the Trainers “cheat” on accumulating their mileage. We tested this theory by taping an iPhone onto an electrical train that went in circles on a track for 5 minutes. The result? Walking distance toward the goal was 0 kilometers. You must put in the physical effort to get the results you are looking for to make progress in the game.

Often, people do not make time for exercise in their busy schedules. But there is a personal priority for some people to play the game, and while they play, they are on their feet moving about. Want to increase the intensity of the Pokémon hunt? Here are a few ideas:

  • Make the search a race with friends of family – run some and walk some distance. Pack a light backpack and then take your walk to increase the energy you use.
  • Mix up the traveling by using your feet or a bike, keep your balance and coordination strong.
  • Set a fitness goal with your family or friends and see if you can achieve it. Being on your feet more also boosts your mood, and makes you feel less tired and more energetic.
  • Enjoy the game, and be safe when doing so. Follow the clear directions to all Trainers: “Always be aware of your surroundings”. Travel in groups or with a partner, and respect the space you are searching. Spend more time looking up than looking down when you are outside.

Feel good that you can play and get some health benefits too!

Post by Heather Vincent, Ph. D., Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Institute. This article is written in partnership with the University of Florida Diabetes Institute, working together for a diabetes-free world. Learn more at diabetes.ufl.edu.

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