Pokémon Go and physical activity

Today I’m working against a deadline. I have an article that needs to be submitted tonight, and a pile of exams to grade. Despite this, the urge to Catch ‘Em All drove me (and the rest of the family out on a 1 hour walk before lunch.


Look out for the Spinarak! 

We had learnt online that there was a Girafarig nest not too far from our home, and since non of us had caught a Girafarig nest it was not difficult to convince the family to go for a walk (although the 10-yearold started complaining halfway there and wanted us to turn around).

Needless to say, we caught some Girafarigs before heading home, and we even made a detour to take over a gym and earn some gold coins. Now, a 1-hour walk on a sunny winter day may not sound so impressive to some of you, but for me and my family it is actually a great improvement. I have never been a very physically active person and neither is my husband – and not surprisingly our children seem to take after us. Being interested in behavioural change and new technology, I have used numerous health apps and activity trackers to try to increase my physcial activity, but none has managed to create sustainable effect – it remains a struggle to motivate myself. Pokémon Go however, I have continued to use since it’s launch in July 2016, and the competitive aspects (trying to find more pokémons than my husband) and the recurring special events keeps it fun! The agony of not being able to go for long walks when the next generation was released a few weaks ago due to having had surgery… I think that one of the most compelling things about Pokémon Go is that it is not at all aimed at being a health app – it’s just a good side effect. Margaret McCartney made similar reflections in her comment in BMJ [1];

Most health appsthat promote physical activity tend to get users who want to be healthy. Pokémon Go isn’t marketed as a health app, but players still end up doing a lot of walking. The possibilities for apps to make the streets an active, reclaimed playground in which to have interconnected fun are boundless. Increased physical activity is a tantalising side effect. [1]

Professor Enrico Coiera also commented on the Pokémon Go phenomenon in August last year, stating that “if we can believe what we are seeing, Pokemon GO is the world’s most effective, and most widespread, population weight loss intervention” [2]. I’m however not so sure about the weight loss part. So far, Pokémon Go has not managed to make me loose weight – but it has probably increased my daily activity which should have health benefits. Weight loss is such a complex issue, and simply “moving more” will probably not help many of us to loose weight. But perhaps even more importantly, Pokémon Go has created social interactions and common interests that stretches across generations. Even my mother has started playing (at 61), and one of the first things she discusses with her grandchildren when they meet is “Have you caught anything good?”.

[1] McCartney, Margaret. Game on for Pokémon Go BMJ : British Medical Journal (Online); London354 (Aug 9, 2016).

[2] Coiera, Enrico. GottaCureEmAll – Pokémon Go teaches healthcare a big lesson

[post 4 in the #blogg100 challenge – still behind…]


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