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New “Pokemon Go” App Has Unexpected Health Benefits

Jul 7, 2016

On July 6, Nintendo quietly published a new mobile game for iOS and Android called Pokemon Go. Since then, the app has taken the world by storm, with Forbes reporting over 7.5 million downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue.


The app’s premise is simple: using “augmented reality,” gamers walk around their real world environment and use their phones to detect collectible Pokemon in their immediate vicinity. For more ambitious collectors, though, it’s necessary to use a map to search around your city for more rare and enticing specimens.


A perhaps unintended consequence of the game’s structure is that it requires quite a bit of walking and interacting with the real world in order to do well in the game. As a result, anecdotal reports from players indicate that people who never would have otherwise walked around their neighborhood are now doing so for hours, multiple days in a row. This is especially shocking in Los Angeles, a city that is typically averse to walking and notorious for over-utilizing cars for even minor trips.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits From Pokemon Go


As amusing as the premise sounds, it seems quite plausible that Pokemon Go is actually having a profound effect on the physical and mental health of a subset of people who were otherwise lacking in those areas. Although obviously not everyone who enjoys video gaming as a hobby falls into this category, many people who enjoy games do not get enough physical exercise. Additionally, many avid gamers may exhibit anti-social behavior and even be hermetic, depending on the extent of their gaming habits.


For those gamers, Pokemon Go is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Twitter and other social media platforms are awash with firsthand reports of gamers who are effusive in their praise for the game’s real world component. Meetups and social groups are forming around the game, causing friendships to form based around physical activity and exploration. This is an incredible development in an industry that has typically been designed around keeping a gamer glued to their couch.


Walking To Improve Health


It’s no secret that staying physically active and engaging in even simple activities like walking can have a profound cumulative benefit to your health. In fact, the average person will burn roughly 100 calories per mile that they walk. For a Pokemon Go player who walks an extra 3 miles a day while playing the game, this can translate into a weekly caloric deficit of 1500-2100 calories that they wouldn’t have burned otherwise.


JustĀ imagine how quickly those numbers can add up if people keep playing. The obesity epidemic in America is one of our biggest health crises, and Nintendo may have inadvertently stumbled upon an incredibly innovative and fun way to make a dent in that crisis. Pokemon Go just might change the way we think about video games and the people that play them, forever!