By Jonathon Stavres MS, ACSM-EP-C
If your daily commute is anything like mine, you probably wondered a few months ago about the increased sighting of flocks of teenagers aimlessly walking around your local parks and gathering idly at street corners. This is due to the new Pokémon Go app, a game that uses a global positioning system to allow kids to go outside and “catch” mystical creatures known as Pokémon.
For those who are unfamiliar with Pokémon, it originated as a video game for the original game boy that pitted one player’s creature’s (known as Pokémon) against those from another player in a virtual battle.
After that, the game evolved to include trading cards. Once trading cards were introduced, the franchise was rocketed into one of the most popular games in history, only second to the Mario franchise.
In the early 2000’s Pokémon started to fall out of its novelty phase, and many kids moved onto different and more advanced game systems such as the X box and Play Station.
What does any of this has to do with health and wellness?
This new Pokémon Go app has changed the way that game is played so drastically that some kids are beginning to modify their own daily routines. This app requires kids to walk outside to find Pokémon which has been virtually scattered throughout grassy areas, around streams, and to congregate at “gyms” which are located around parks and other outdoor areas.
Therefore, kids who would normally be sitting on their couch from 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon until 7:00 p.m. at night playing video games are now walking around their neighborhood, local parks, and down walking path from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
This app has done more to get more kids physically active in the past few months than their parents were able to do in two years. There are even built-in physical activity milestones in the app. For example, in order to accomplish a certain goal within the game, you would have walked or jogged a certain amount of distance with an opened app.
I saw a video online of a young boy jumping out of a card and running sprints in a yard to accomplish a goal in the game.
Of course, not everything about the app is perfect.
Kids are still staring into their phones for hours on end, and in some cases disregarding their surroundings. News outlets have already reported some kids getting hit by cars and falling from bluffs because they were staring into their phones instead of watching where they were going.
There are also some concerns about loitering around houses or travelling to high crime areas in pursuit of Pokémon. However, it may be more desirable to address the issues and the glitches with the game than to abolish it altogether.
The fact that kids who haven’t been getting outside or being active at all are now changing their behaviors entirely on their own is pretty awesome! This is something that we should nurture and encourage.
Furthermore, this leaves me very interested to see if this has sparked a new branch of video game development. I am eager to see the next and best game that gets even more kids outside and rewards physical activity!