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Pikachu and the pursuit of health

26th August 2016
Sport and fitness

Pokemón Go could be a useful gateway to motivate the sedentary into exercise, according to a review of the mobile app by sport scientists in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM).

The smart phone game by Ninatic, which features the original creatures from Nintendo-GAMEFREAK Inc/Creatures Inc, is the latest addition to the ever popular exergaming – technology-driven physical activities that require participants to be physically active or exercise in order to play.

“Following an assessment of the game, we found that Pokemón Go has the ability to get people more active from different demographics, and therefore present the potential to prevent and treat many chronic diseases,” says Dr James Steele, one of the authors of the review and Research and Innovation Fellow at Southampton Solent University.


One particular benefit, specific to Pokemón Go, is the wide age range that the game appeals to, mainly due to the nostalgia element.

“The first Pokemón game came out in the 90s and I used to play it on my Game Boy,” says James. “As a sport scientist, it’s great to see a sedentary computer game from the past transformed into physical activity with recognisable characters from my childhood.”

The app being free is seen as another benefit, as well as potentially increasing vitamin D levels by getting participants outside and keeping people interested and adherent with the game’s variety of environments, characters and challenges.


On the flip side, the sport scientists highlighted the undesirable real-life events that can occur when participants of augmented games don’t pay attention to their surroundings; although walking is good, an effective physical activity programme should also include strength based and high effort, aerobic training; and recognised the costs of having the latest smart phones and mobile data packages to play the game.

Overall the review suggests that Pikachu may help Public Health England’s target of getting everyone active every day. “Health professionals can certainly learn a lot from the huge success of Pokemón Go when it comes to finding new ways of getting people interested in physical activity,” says James.Nash Anderson from Farnham Chiropratic Wellness, Lise-Ann O’Neill from the Department of Physio therapy at Shelbourne WFC and Lesley Harden from the Chartered Physiotherapist in Sports and Exercise Medicine in Dublin are co-authors of the review, which can be read in full on the BJSM website.