Just as Pokémon evolve, gaming is taking some huge strides with the development of Pokémon Go and getting people off the couch and moving. Since its launch in July 2016, Pokémon Go, a free-to-play, Global Positioning System (GPS) augmented game has encouraged people to get off the couch and get moving. From middle school students to college graduates, tens of millions of people have swarmed the streets, phone in hand, in an attempt to find and capture these virtual beasts, possibly helping to fight the ongoing obesity epidemic.

photo illustration by colton mccracken

photo illustration by colton mccracken

Players, referred to in the game as “trainers,” must walk around to find different Pokémon in their region. In order to find bigger and better Pokémon, the trainers need to explore their area. The more you walk around, the more likely you are to find these critters, gain more expertise, and “level up.” Reaching Pokestops, catching rare and exotic Pokémon and hatching eggs are all tasks that require walking–lots and lots of walking.

Is chasing Pokémon really a part of the solution to this worldwide epidemic? According to researchers at John Hopkins University, it’s possible.  In a study done in 2015, it was found that only five percent of adults get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily. However, with the release of Pokémon Go, people are more likely to get up and get moving. Daily users range from nine million all the way up to 21 million. It turns out that the quest to be the very best may be great news for your health.

“Playing the game is a lot of fun and it has been a catalyst to get people moving,” said clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing, Matt Hoffman. “I’ve spent an hour or two at a time venturing around the community to find Pokestops. And, to hatch one egg, a trainer must walk anywhere from 1 to 6 miles. There is no doubt about it, I am exercising more as a result of playing this game, and I am enjoying it.” So while individuals are getting much needed exercise out of the game, it doesn’t really feel like exercise—a little like hiding broccoli inside a smoothie.

The App can also help to build a sense of community between college campuses. Since Pokémon Go is a relatively non-violent game, it can help to bridge the gap between college campuses and their surrounding community. By exploring the community, the App can help incoming first-years at Keene State College learn more about their community. It can lead students to areas that they hadn’t previously thought to explore, or areas they didn’t even know were there. It can also help first-years meet more people in their community, as they come across other groups also searching for virtual critters.

While Pokémon Go is creating so many positives for the Keene community, it’s important to hunt for the creatures safely. “Remember, you should never play Pokémon Go while driving,” Hoffman said. “It’s also important to avoid dark, isolated areas—there have been accounts of trainers being robbed and attacked.” So while catching as many Pokémon as possible is by no doubt important, it’s equally important to play the game safely. So be cautious, travel in groups, and go catch ‘em all!

Lindsay Gibbons can be contacted at lgibbons@kscequinox.com

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