Pokemon Go Probably Didn’t Make Its Users More Active After All
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
In July 2016, when Nintendo unleashed its Pokemon GO game (which uses augmented reality to let players find Pokemon in the real world), many salivated over an enticing idea: at long last, a video game—a video game—had successfully convinced people to get more exercise. After all, Pokemon GO was immediately popular, downloaded some 100 million times in less than a month, and the mechanics of the app require exploring (and, more to the point, taking steps in) the real world.
It’s a nice thought, but according to a new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health examining the steps taken by both players and non-players, the boost in step counts was moderate and short-lived. The study was published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal’s Christmas edition, which always highlights quirky, light-hearted findings.
To determine just how much of an effect the popular app might have on fitness, researchers looked at the step counts of 1,182 iPhone 6-series users between the ages of 18 and 35, comparing the stats of Pokemon GO players and non-players over several weeks.
That first week, the activity increase was significant—a boost of 955 steps, or an estimated 11 minutes of additional walking a day, according to study author Katherine Howe.