A few weeks after all my friends started playing Pokémon GO, I wondered, “Is this just how it is now? Everyone going outside in the sun and stuff?” Nowadays, though, only one of those people is still playing the game. While that might be anecdotal, it seems indicative of a greater trend with the game, according to a study from Harvard University. When the game launched and everyone ventured out of their homes and into the sun to play
When the game launched and everyone ventured out of their homes and into the sun to play Pokémon GO, Niantic’s game was lauded as a new way to get people up and moving, but that movement did not transition into sustained fitness.
“We found that playing Pokémon GO moderately increases [players’] physical activity, but the effect was not sustained over [a] six week period,” said Katherine Howe, co-author of the study in an interview with The Guardian. The study looked at 560 Pokémon GO players who had reached level five or higher and 622 individuals who had not downloaded the game, automatically recording steps of those taking part in the study.
“It is very objective data,” Howe said. “It wasn’t self-reported, so we really had an accurate reading of how many steps users and non-users of the game walked.”
Gotta Catch Some of ‘Em
When Pokémon GO released, players averaged an extra 955 steps per day above the 4500 steps they were already taking, which translates to about 11 minutes of extra walking per day, Howe said. That’s about half of what the World Health Organization recommends per week.
Within six weeks, however, the activity level returned to pre-download levels. The study looked specifically at the activity itself, not at the reasons behind it – whether it was simply people moving on to new things, technical problems and lack of updates with the game in its early days, or the onset of colder weather and the holiday season is unknown.
“There is huge potential for augmented reality games to be beneficial for our health,” Howe said, in spite of the study’s findings. “They give us a reason to go outside, walk, and socialize. So I think there is a huge potential to develop these games to not only increase physical activity but also boost mental well-being, mood, and social interaction for people of all ages.”