Pokémon GO: Did This Game Get People To Exercise?

First Posted: Dec 16, 2016 03:20 AM EST

When the augmented reality game Pokémon GO was launched, it immediately became popular as a two-in-one activity, a game and a health fad. However, a new study by researchers at Harvard University found that the fitness boost was just short-lived.

Across the globe, hundreds of millions of players went out and walked miles with eyes glued to their smartphones. For those searching for a fun way to boost exercise levels, they need to search further than the next PokéStop.

The Pokémon GO Craze

Despite the fact that it raised hopes in the emergence of games that encourage players to exercise and walk, the new research published in the journal British Medical Journal shows that keen players walked an average of an extra 995 steps a day in the first week of playing the game.

The researchers recruited players and non-players of Pokémon GO to go through an online survey. A total of 560 avid Pokémon GO players, those who had reached level five or higher and 622 individuals who had not downloaded the game, took part in the study in August 2016.

All the participants were from the United States, aged between 18 and 35 years old and have an iPhone 6, which automatically recorded steps, giving data for the researchers to compare the activity of participants about four weeks before the players downloaded the game. Then, the number of their steps during the six weeks after they downloaded it was also recorded.

Health Fad Dwindled

"They give us a reason to go outside, walk and socialize," Katherine Howe, co-author of the study, told The Guardian. "So I think there is a huge potential to develop these games to not only increase physical activity but also boost mental wellbeing, mood and social interaction for people of all ages," she added.

The study findings showed that before downloading the game, Pokémon GO, all the participants had a similar number of steps per day at an average of 4,124 for non-players and 4,526 steps for players. After downloading the game, the players had an average of 955 extra steps. However, this soon decreased and the effect was short-lived. Within just six weeks, the number of daily steps had returned to pre-download levels.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), those who are 18 to 64 years old should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.

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