Will the ‘Pokémon’ be Heroes in the Battle Against Physical Inactivity?

Jon W. Williamson*

Will the ‘Pokémon’ be Heroes in the Battle Against Physical Inactivity?

Physical inactivity increases the risks of dying prematurely, dying of heart disease, and developing diabetes, colon cancer and high blood pressure. However, there exists a large portion of the population who remain physically inactive and others who are active but do not engage in a sufficient amount of physical activity to maintain health. Multiple factors underlie this dilemma, including personal, social and environmental issues, all of which have made the promotion of physical activity a challenging endeavor. Interestingly, in the past few months (as of early July, 2016) anecdotal evidence suggests more people have been going outside and engaging in physical activity.

This is not related to any “national fitness initiatives” or the like, but simply as part of playing a game called ‘Pokémon Go’. This new mobile gamming application uses an augmented reality and GPS location systems to create a map of the local environment. Individuals can use their phones to track and catch Pokémon (virtual creatures). The most intriguing aspect from a public health perspective is that people must actually engage in physical activity (e.g. walking, biking) to be successful playing the game.

In addition to having a required physical activity component, there are other design features to help sustain player interest. Several articles have previously discussed the potentially “addictive” features of online gaming and the unique design features of the Pokémon game which can influence player behavior. These factors include the random rewards structure,4
the Pokémon nostalgia, the concept of collecting items, and incorporation of an augmented reality.

Sport Exerc Med Open J. 2016; 2(1): 13-14. doi: 10.17140/SEMOJ-2-133