Pokémon GO is the newest augmented reality mobile game from the Pokémon franchise— and it’s becoming the next big craze.
Ripe with nostalgia of millennial youth culture, the craze is spanning all generations and people ranging in ages from 4 to 44 have been downloading it and playing it.
I didn’t know exactly when Pokémon GO was going to be released and quite frankly, I didn’t really care. But once it hit the app store, it started showing up all over my Facebook newsfeed and the momentum only grew from there.
I saw articles on how businesses were either kicking Pokémon hunters out or using lure modules, which are bought within the game using Pokécoins and are used to attract Pokémon, to get them into their shop — which worked and store sales increased significantly.
A few days later, I came into work and even my coworkers were talking about it. I decided I had to see what all of the fuss was about and try the game myself.
Due to the intense demand of the game, it took about a day or two until I was finally able to download it. I didn’t catch my first Pokémon until day two of searching.
It was a Pikachu and I was excited to share my accomplishment on social media.
Pokémon searching, hype and media continued to grow globally and in my office. My coworker came up to me with a look of disbelief — just six days after the game was released Pokémon GO had drastically solved a longtime argument between her and her boyfriend. Exercise. For years she had begged her boyfriend to join her on her two-mile runs, and he couldn’t have been less interested or motivated.
I’m a guy and I know just how stubborn boyfriends can be. My ex-girlfriend wanted me to go to the gym to work out. I never went once. We ended up breaking up. Heartbreaking, I know. But my lack of interest in maintaining my health was definitely a key factor in our demise.
Pokémon GO inspired my coworker’s boyfriend to walk 10 miles in a single day to catch Pokémon and hatch eggs. The next morning, prior to work, he walked another 1.5 miles at the park at 6:30 a.m. citing their dog’s need for exercise.
But was this just an anomaly that happened just for one person?
“I doubled how much time I walk each day because the game gives me a reason to be outside. If you have difficulty finding a reason to walk, this game could potentially help motivate you. The benefits of walking include having better cardiovascular health, burning calories and enjoying the world instead of staying in your room watching TV. Pay attention to your surroundings when you are walking, riding your bike and don’t play Pokémon when you drive.” Caroline Park, LVN, Primary Care Patient Coordinator at Keck Medicine of USC.
According to our physicians, exercise and outdoor activities should be performed for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for healthy adults. Just climbing five flights of stairs five times a week burns approximately 302 calories. That could result in a loss of 15 pounds a year.
I hardly ever exercise. It’s the hardest thing to get motivated to do. I walk maybe a mile every other week – and most of my walking is done to get to a local restaurant in Koreatown. So you can probably guess I’m not in the best shape of my life.
Encouraged by my conversation with my coworker I decided to play Pokémon after I got home and ate dinner. I turned on the app and began my journey. I had an egg that needed to be hatched and that would require me to go 1.9km (1.18 miles). I wandered around the streets of Koreatown towards PokéStops. Embarrassed, I tried to conceal my phone and hide the fact that I was playing a game when I passed other adults along my journey. But, a quick glance at their phone screens revealed they were doing the exact same thing I was. We all had the same mission — catch as many Pokémon and go as our feet would take us to do so.
After my first egg hatched, I started to incubate another egg. This one would require me to go another 2km (1.24 miles) to hatch. I could have walked straight home, but the game motivated me to continue on my way.
Once I got to the 2km mark and my second egg hatched, I ended up on a block with five other people who were playing the game. They ranged in age from age 15 to 33 and they were all working, moving and running together to find a Jolteon, whatever that is. I followed them and caught my own too. Then by the time I got home, I had walked a total of 4.5km (2.79 miles).
I had broken a sweat. I can’t remember the last time I broke a sweat from working out. My legs were a bit sore. I felt a little proud of myself for actually getting out of home and exercising.
Helga Van Herle, MD, MS, associate professor of clinical medicine and a cardiologist from the Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute, doesn’t discriminate against what gets people walking as long as they are doing it — even if it is to catch Pokémon. “With so much time being spent in front of a screen or in our cars, it may be hard to find the time to move around.” Now adults who may be glued to their screen can also be getting their 30 minutes of exercise a day. Dr. Van Herle echoes what Caroline Park says and encourages users to be aware of their surroundings.
If you’re having difficulty working out, this could potentially be your solution. Or if you know a guy who just lounges around the house all day and doesn’t get out, tell him about how fun this game is and see if he starts playing. It could save your relationship, your health and be bad news for all of those stray Pokémon out there waiting to be caught.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Is Pokémon Go not helping you get motivated to go outside? Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to get additional help in creating a detailed workout plan.
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for a new primary care physician, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.
By Leonard Kim