Is Pokémon Go forcing people to become more active?

Technology has gradually becoming more and more relevant to the world of health and fitness in recent years. Our smartphones now allow us to monitor and record the vast majority of our physical activity and give us crucial advice on how we can improve. Long before the digital health revolution, Nintendo were revolutionising exercise and gaming with the introduction of the Wii in 2006. That’s right, 2006! Well if the Wii is thought of as intentional, Pokémon Go can definitely be considered as an accidental discovery for health and fitness.

Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. Everywhere that you turn somebody is on it. And with this remarkable weather that we are experiencing in the UK this week, more and more people are going outdoors to find the rarest of Pokémon. It didn’t take long for people to realise with the Wii that you were just as good, if not better, sat playing on the couch and just moving your wrist. Pokémon Go is nothing like that, if you want to be good at it you have to be willing to dedicate the time to it and that means getting out and about.

But was Pokémon Go designed to be a health app? Well in many ways it isn’t. We have just become so numb to seeing children and adults alike opt for the inside life, especially when it comes to gaming. This phenomenon has just been an absolute shock to the system. A game where you have to go outside to play!? Sheer madness.

If we are being completely honest, this, in the long term, probably isn’t going to change the face of the health and fitness world for good. There is no significant demand for physical activity and it can hardly be described as high intensity. But it is the small changes that matter. Just getting people to introduce a little more physical activity into their lives is a fantastic place to start. That, regardless of Nintendo’s motivation, has undoubtedly happened as a result in the surge in popularity of this game.

As I alluded to earlier, all sorts of video games have incorporated exercise in the past, whether it is the Wii or the dance mat. The overwhelming impression I get is that these companies are looking for ways to distract people from realising that they are actually exercising. The idea is that they make the activity so enjoyable that they don’t realise they are actually working out. Pairing that with a franchise that is nostalgic to so many people of a certain age and forcing the success of results on your willingness to go outdoors and explore the local environment is genius.

Do I believe that Pokémon Go is the latest fitness trend? No, I don’t. But the game will remain extremely popular, at least for a short while, and if while that is the case it encourages more people to become physically active then it gets a thumbs up from me. Are there more efficient ways to get healthy? Well yes of course there are. But for a population that is increasingly told it needs to get outside more, Pokémon Go and this astonishing heatwave seem to be a match made in heaven.

Ollie Lawrence
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