The Stress Management Society

The gamification of physical activity

In the past few weeks since it has been available in the UK, Pokémon GO has taken over the country. Everyone is obsessed with finding and catching Pokémon! But for some, Pokémon Go is more than just an entertaining app—it’s helping them increase their exercise.

I’m personally in love with the app and as soon as I downloaded it, I went out to ‘Catch em all’! It’s only when I got back and looked at my fitness tracker that I realised I had just been on a 2 mile walk.

By design, Pokémon Go requires users to explore areas of the physical world around them to find and catch Pokémon characters. The game places more Pokémon, Pokéstops, and gyms in densely populated areas or landmarks away from housing and encourages you to walk significant distances to collect medals or to incubate eggs.

The best feature of the app, in my opinion, is that it encourages people to avoid walking around staring at their phone screens – the app will vibrate as soon as you encounter a Pokémon! So you can enjoy your walk without having to keep your eyes glued to the screen; win-win!

Although we still recommend that everybody should have some time during the day where you are completely disconnected from you technology, I’m all up for an app that makes walking outdoors even more fun!

So, if you’re a Pokémom Go lover, like myself, here are a few suggestions on how you can use it to maximise your wellbeing:

· Just keep on walking!

· Be mindful of your surroundings – don’t walk around staring at your phone screen, enjoy what you see around you and be in the present moment

· Set yourself challenges – e.g. jog in between Pokestops, do a minute sprint when you catch a Pokémon, etc.

· Set a limit for play (say 30-60 minutes a day)

Aside from promoting physical activity, the game may offer another, more unexpected health benefit – it has proven to improve wellbeing for people with poor mental health by encouraging people to spend time outdoors.

Ben Michaelis, PhD says ‘The game could provide motivation to go outside and explore the world through a sort of enhanced reality,” he explains. “It could also provide people with enough of a distraction from their fears and inner monologue to get them to do something that might be challenging for them.”

And, as we already know from research, getting more exercise and spending time outdoors can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

P.S. Please exercise common sense whilst playing and be cautious of your surroundings!