pokemon go

Pokémon Go for Exercise, Fun, and WLS!

July 20, 2016

Driving home from work last week, I was surprised to see several kids outside in my neighborhood in New Jersey. I first thought I had worked straight through the summer, and it was Halloween already. Then I assumed it must have been a party of some kind in my usually desolate neighborhood.

But there was no holiday or special occasion—kids were running, biking—even full-on running—while they were playing the new Pokémon Go game. Equally heartwarming, I actually saw kids and teens talking and laughing live and in-person, not by text or Snapchat. The best thing about this new game is that it’s not just for kids and teens.

In fact, I have several bariatric patients who are using the app as a tool to get in the daily 30-minutes of exercise. So far, people love it and say it’s more fun than the treadmill any day.

Why not take advantage of a “free and fun” way to work up a sweat (and not even realize you are doing it.)

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought about the app and I received some great feedback:

Matt said, “It's a great idea getting users to get up and move instead of being sedentary playing these games. Though they may be more focused on playing the game then what is around them, they still are exploring the real world around them. Nintendo has been trying to get their gamers to move around and not just be couch potatoes. The Wii was the first step and they’ve gone to the next level with this game.”

“My nine-year-old) walked three miles today already--and it’s only 1 p.m. Most days I can't get him to walk to the mailbox without complaining... so I’m 100% ok with this game,” replied Tara.

“I think it’s an ingenious app. Rather than sitting in front of the TV, my boys are walking, biking around and just keeping busy this summer,” says Dina.

Courtney noted, “With my six-year-old in tow, we put in over six miles on Sunday chasing Pokémon, we had a blast!”

Pokémon Go is the Free Fitness App No One Realizes is a Fitness App

The game, which runs on a free phone app, was just released in early July 2016 in the United States. The premise of the game requires users to walk around (outside!) searching for fictional creatures (Pokémon). Players can also acquire “eggs” from Poké Gyms and Poké Stops that only open if the player walks, runs or bikes a certain distance. The longer the distance, the rarer the Pokémon, which entices users to meet the challenge. The distances for each egg, respectively, are 2km, 5km, and 10km.

If any country needs this craze, it’s the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• 17 percent (or 12.7 million) children and teens age 2 -19 are obese
• 37.9 percent of adults age 20 and over are obese

For teens and millennials who grew up playing the original video game or collected the playing cards, Pokémon Go is a childhood dream come true.

Health Benefits that Extend Beyond Weight Loss

The fact that the premise of this game requires the player to walk, bike, run and—and potentially even socialize in the process--is nothing short of brilliant. The health benefits may well extend beyond weight management and obesity prevention as well. The mental distraction could help people battling chronic pain (to exercise) or even depression.

The bottom line is that exercising along with losing weight is a winning (and necessary) combination in order to achieve long-lasting, significant weight loss. “Moving it” boosts fat-burning metabolism, so everyone trying to lose weight needs to feed the metabolism furnace.

At a time when the world seems to be so full of worry, Pokémon Go is a healthy and welcome distraction for all of us. Is it perfect? Of course not. Do the benefits outweigh the caveats? From this doctor’s perspective, without question.

A Precautionary Safety Note

While you are playing, take note of your surroundings—look out for bike or car traffic, and watch where you are walking. Don’t enter dark or unfamiliar areas and don’t let kids play alone. No game is worth risking your personal safety--ever.



Dr. Seun Sowemimo is a board-certified laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon, specializing in the treatment of metabolic syndrome (obesity). He is the medical director at Prime Surgicare and co-medical director of Central Jersey Bariatrics, located in Freehold, NJ.

Read more articles by Dr. Seun Sowemimo!

Photo credit:  digitiser2000 cc