If you’ve seen an increased number of people walking and biking around town with their phones glued to their faces, there’s a strong chance they are searching for a Charmander, Snorlax, or one of the other 151 Pokémon varieties. Of course we’re talking about Pokémon Go, the latest interactive app to blow up your Facebook and Twitter feed. The coolest part of the app (aside from finding a Squirtle in your backyard), is it’s actually helping people to get outside and exercise more.
Released last week, Pokémon Go is an interactive game that uses your phone’s GPS, camera, and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around using augmented reality. The Pokemon that the players catch can be powered up and used to take over or train at local gyms (usually monuments, churches, other public spaces). Different types of creatures appear as you move around your city, with the variety changing as you move from block to block. You’re literally chasing Pokémon around your city, which is making this game a huge hit and an excellent addition to your exercise regimen.
Many people using the app have seen significant increases in their steps since they began playing.
In addition, some Pokémon Go players are seeing mental health benefits. Simply by getting outside and taking a short walk (sometimes with friends) players are helping themselves to battle anxiety and depression. The game can be played solo or with a group of friends/strangers.
Tumblr user Ari is one of them. She has anxiety and depression and for the past three years has avoided leaving the house unless absolutely necessary.
“I have struggled with motivation and energy since I was 9, when I developed severe depression. After that, when I was 15, I developed CPTSD [complex post-traumatic stress disorder] from an abusive relationship that left me completely socially phobic, and starting then I was barely able to leave my house for fear of seeing people.
“But as soon as I got Pokemon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it. I had the instant rush of dopamine whenever I caught a Pokémon, and I wanted to keep going. Then today and yesterday I purposely put myself in social situations, going to the mall, just to play. And best of all I enjoyed it.
“I think it’s partially because it gives an instant reward. It’s not like going out, having an awful experience, and getting praise after. It’s going out and getting that instant positive affirmation that makes going outside a good experience. I guess most people get that with being social or doing other activities.”
Of course the exercise is a side effect of playing Pokémon Go, which is at its core an incredibly fun way to try and see if you can “catch ‘em all”. It brings back a sense of nostalgia, childhood wonder, and lets players explore their environment.
Now, if someone can help me find a Pikachu in Spokane, that would be amazing.
-Matt Grebe & Rachael Chambers, CHAS Health Communications Team