Is Pokémon Go becoming the newest fitness craze?

Unless you don’t use The Internet, you’ve probably heard of Pokémon Go. Even if it’s still not technically available in Canada yet—don’t worry it's coming—the app is predicted to surpass Twitter in number of downloads and overall users.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Pokémon Go is a location-based virtual reality mobile game. Think back to those cuddly fictional characters that used to be found on playing cards and TV. Now you can find them crawling through the streets of your hometown by looking through your smartphone. Your job is to catch as many Pokémon as possible, and how do you do it? You walk. You walk a lot to look for new buddies to add to your collection. Stories are popping up all around the world about people who are tracking crazy distances just to capture a new creature.

So is Pokémon Go the newest fitness craze out there? Is it powerful enough to create lasting behaviour change and help Canadians to sit less and move more?

Maybe.

In 2012, ParticipACTION was involved in a position statement that discourages Canadians from active video gaming. But, this time we might be in agreement with all those Pokémon catchers.

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Active video games are typically defined as “a video game that requires physical activity beyond that of a passive game (i.e. conventional hand-held games). Active video games rely on technology that tracks body movement or reaction for the game to progress.” What’s not stipulated here is that with the advent of smartphones, active video games were typically played indoors, and were linked to a TV and game console. For example, think of a Wii console. 

But, the newest generation of active video games, under the umbrella of “games for health” highlight the pace at which technology is outpacing research. In just three years, there’s been such a swell in app development that it may be time to re-think how we recommend integrating technology into our physical activity regime.

Pokémon Go is actually doing many things to positively impact physical activity levels:

  • People are talking more about getting active
  • People are actually moving more and increasing their daily step count
  • People are getting active outdoors (which aligns very well with our Position Statement on Outdoor Active Play)
  • People are exploring new areas in their neighbourhoods
  • And, bonus points to the people who are playing Pokémon Go and would have otherwise stayed indoors and binged on a more passive screen-based activity (*cough* Netflix *cough*)

Although there’s a lot of research that needs to happen before we’re ready to suggest swapping your soccer ball for a Poke Ball, this type of app does at the very least, get people talking about getting active.

Our hope is that the fad will last longer than our summer tan lines and will help Canadians move more in the long term. After all, you gotta catch ‘em all!