Video games have become incredibly popular sources of entertainment in the last few decades, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down their development. I’m sure you’ve seen countless memes, posts, and photos on social media about the latest fad, Pokémon Go. You may be puzzled by the concept or just plain disinterested, but before you knock it, I suggest you try it. It can help you to stay active and encourage a fun, healthy lifestyle.
I grew up as a Pokémon kid, having collected way too many trading cards to count before I even became a pre-teen (thanks for the financial support Mom and Dad), but that doesn’t make this article biased in any way. This new game is a game-changer. To begin, you create your own personalized avatar and catch Pokémon. But the Pokémon aren’t the only catch: you must physically walk around to find the Pokémon and other necessary materials within the game. Niantic and Google teamed up so the game incorporates your phone’s GPS and turns your neighborhood (or wherever you are) into a video game map that’s teeming with creatures and supplies, just waiting to be discovered. So in order to play, you must walk around and be active!
I even read one account that a woman bumped into someone else who was also playing the game. They joined each other and walked five miles together and developed a friendship, all while exercising.
Users of the new game have started walking around to catch Pokémon and have enjoyed physically hunting the “monsters.” Some people I spoke to said that they’re generally sedentary, but Pokémon Go has made them get out of the house and introduce some physical activity in their daily lives. On Facebook, I’ve seen events popping up in various New York City communities to meet new people and walk together while playing the game. I even read one account that a woman bumped into someone else who was also playing the game. They joined each other and walked five miles together and developed a friendship, all while exercising.
Something amazing about the game is that it most likely doesn’t feel like typical exercise. If someone told you to get up and walk five miles, you may feel inclined to slouch on your couch instead. But if you’re out on a mission, you’re barely focusing on the fact that you’re walking longer than you usually would. There are certain checkpoints on the maps that link to actual locations in your area (including a lot of churches), so it can even help you to discover new places in your neighborhood. I was playing the game in the Financial District in Manhattan yesterday and I collected some Pokéballs (balls that you throw at the Pokémon to catch them) at the Sidewalk Clock, which is a landmark I never even knew existed. Physical activity plus added knowledge, all while collecting little monsters? What could be better?
If you never were a Pokémon fan in the past, don’t be so quick to judge the game. It’s an excellent way to get you out of the house and become more active. Plus, walking has been proven to be excellent exercise! Just because you’re not physically exerting yourself as hard as you would if you were running, it’s still incredible for your health. Some of the health benefits from this aerobic exercise include a lower risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, improved mood, increased calorie burn, improved balance and coordination, and more. According to a Harvard article, a 160 pound person burns approximately 105 calories per mile walked. If you play this game all day, you could burn a whole lot of calories and have a whole lot of fun!
There are, of course, some things to be careful of while playing. You want to make sure that you’re walking in safe areas and always staying aware of your surroundings. Make sure you’re only crossing the street when you’re supposed to. No Pokémon is worth more than your life! Also, make sure to not catch Pokémon and drive, because regardless of the laziness factor of that, you want to make sure that your eyes are always on the road. Make sure you have enough cell phone data to be able to play freely, or the game might become a little pricier than its original free download. With that said, play safe, go on a solo adventure, invite some friends to join you, meet some new people to walk and play with, and just have a great time while being physically active!
Here’s a link to an article from Positive Health Wellness that shows you more healthy benefits that can come from playing video games!
Gameplay photos in this article courtesy of Shauna Lapoint.