On Your Marks, Get Set, Pokémon GO!

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If you haven’t heard of Pokémon GO, keep reading. This app is sweeping the world and bringing with it some unexpected, real-life health benefits.

Neighborhoods across the country have seen an upsurge of pedestrian traffic since the July 6 release of Pokémon GO, a GPS-based “augmented reality” game. Millions of daily players — maybe you’re even one of them — are walking the streets and staring at their phones in a trance-like state, as if beckoned to some unseen destination by unseen forces.

But far from zombies, players grin and laugh as they hunt these elusive creatures; in fact, the game may inspire health benefits.

Pokémon GO: The Quest

Players aren’t in search of a place, although Google Maps does power Pokémon GO. They’re searching a virtual Poké-world, layered over real geography. Their mission is to find as many digital Pokémon as possible. Along the way, Pokéstops supply Pokéballs, Poké-eggs and other Poké items to assist in the quest. The new experience requires a whole lot of walking.

“Walking is a great form of exercise for people of any age,” says Keri Piper-Colonna, RN, manager of Nursing, ER, Renown Regional Medical Center. “And Pokémon GO is a fun, interactive game that makes a stroll through your neighborhood a little more interesting. You’re walking with a purpose: Find more Pokémon!”

Pokémon GO Makes You Stronger

And all that walking is having a positive impact on the health of Americans who play Pokémon GO daily. Sure, it’s a game. But it forces players to get up and get moving. They’re walking anywhere from 1-6 miles to catch just one Pokémon.

Jawbone, the makers of the Apple fitness tracker Cardiogram, reported that Pokémon GO players’ step count jumped from 6,000 to almost 11,000 the weekend of the game’s release. And players don’t seem to mind or even notice that they’re exercising more because, well, the game is fun. An army of 9-21 million daily active users certainly agrees.

Pokémon GO Is Good for Your Mind, Too

It’s not yoga, but the benefits of Pokémon GO extend beyond the physical. For those suffering from depression and anxiety, who often find themselves almost paralyzed by their condition, playing Pokémon GO provides motivation. These individuals in growing numbers are getting up and getting out to scour their cities for Pokémon.

It’s inevitable that players will cross paths. And for the antisocial, introverted, even those who struggle with autism, Pokémon GO pushes you out of your comfort zone and into social settings with a built-in ice breaker: Where is that Pokémon? They’re interacting and finding a sense of belonging — and they’re enjoying it.

And where technology has divided generations in the recent past, Pokémon GO is bringing families together. Parents and kids are trading in an evening on the couch, each occupied with their own personal electronic devices, to engage and walk around the neighborhood together in search of Pokémon. Piper-Colonna is experiencing this firsthand.

“My son and I are having a great time together playing Pokémon GO,” she says. “He is having so much fun finding Pokémon that he doesn’t realize how much exercise he is getting. As a mom and a nurse, I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Eyes Wide Open: A Few Tips

Who knew playing a game on an electronic device could do the body and mind good and become a social experience? However, in the midst of your fervor, there are some important safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Don’t forget sunblock. Hats and sunglasses are good too.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water as you dash about.
  • Don’t stray too far. Don’t go places you wouldn’t normally go.
  • Be a team player. There’s safety in numbers.
  • Extreme caution should be exercised when playing at night. Wear light colors and use a flashlight at all times. 

Remember to Look Up!

It’s easy to get consumed, but remain mindful of your surroundings. Watch where you’re going, look out for cars and stay on the sidewalk.

Even though that Pokéstop may be just a few meters away, use a little common sense. Avoid dark, isolated areas. And remember: Don’t Pokémon GO and drive or ride a bike.

Happy hunting!

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