Pokemon Go is the current craze and not just with children and teenagers. Unlike the majority of video and electronic games this one requires players to get off the couch, venture outside in the fresh air and actually walk. It also encourages players to socialise in the real world. With some sensible precautions, this craze can benefit the health of players.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Risks of physical inactivity Today many people are concerned about the current trend of physical inactivity. The risks of not participating in enough regular physical activity include:
Obesity. The number of overweight and obese children and adults is on the increase due to overeating and lack of exercise. Obesity increases the likelihood of numerous health issues.
High blood pressure which can lead to kidney disease, stroke, heart attack, dementia and eye problems.
Increased risk of some types of cancer including colon and breast cancer.
Weaker muscles and joints which may contribute to increased falls, especially later in life.
Developing Type 2 diabetes.
Insufficient physical activity can also increase the likelihood of suffering anxiety and depression.
Health benefits of walking Walking has many health benefits and is a safe form of exercise for people of most ages and fitness levels. These benefits include:
Improved balance and coordination
Reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol
Increased vitamin D level
Stronger bones and muscles
Pokemon Go benefits 1. Gets people to go outside Pokemon Go was released recently but has quickly become a craze. Individuals are picking up their mobile phones and going outside to catch some Pokemon.
Being outside means players get some vitamin D from the sun. Research conducted in 2011 and 2012 found about 15% of Australian children aged 12 to 17 years were vitamin D deficient. Other research suggests up to 58% of adult Australians have a vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to joint pain and weak bones. It has a negative impact on the health of an unborn baby. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to depression.
When players explore natural areas such as parks they benefit from the fresh air found around trees. Clean air boosts the immune system, reduces stress and makes people feel more energetic. Being exposed to Nature boosts both physical and mental health.
2. Motivates people to walk Pokemon can be found in many places in towns, cities and in natural settings. People have to walk around to 'catch' them.
The motivation of catching pokemon and collecting items such as 'eggs' and poke balls at PokeStops makes people walk much further than if they were just taking a walk because they know it is good for their health.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
3. Can encourage family members to interact When I was walking my dog yesterday I came across a mother and father with their young lad. They were having fun catching Pokemon on the walking track near the river.
4. Can encourage people to interact face to face Not far away, four teenage lads were sharing a phone as they closed in on a Pokemon. Some players are getting together with mates to play the game. As older phones don't support the game, sometimes one person has a suitable phone and a couple of friends tag along to join in the fun.
Events have been organised which players can join. Already there have been events in Australian capital cities which have attracted thousands of Pokemon Go enthusiasts. This develops a sense of community and provides an opportunity for making new friends.
Feeling connected to other people boosts health. As well as increasing self esteem and making a person less likely to suffer depression, research has shown people with a close circle of friends tend to live longer.
5. Encourages people to go to new locations PokeStops are found at various locations including churches, shopping malls, monuments, historical markers, recreation centres and public art displays. This has the potential to encourage players to become familiar with places in their local environment or further afield which they wouldn't bother visiting otherwise. (Some may be so absorbed in the game that they don't take much notice of these things but others will benefit from going to new and different places.)
Pikachu Image by Marie Vonow
Sensible precautions when playing Pokemon Go Pokemon Go can have health benefits but players need to take sensible precautions to keep safe. These precautions include:
Dress appropriately for the weather.
Wear a hat, sun screen and protective clothing to protect from too much exposure to the sun.
Avoid walking around in the hottest part of the day if playing in hot weather.
Wear comfortable shoes to protect and support your feet.
Be aware of your surroundings. Don't get so absorbed in the game that you forget to check for traffic before crossing the road. In natural settings watch out for dangers such as crumbling clifftops or slippery river banks.
Take a bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration
Follow the usual 'rules' for personal safety such as avoiding dark locations and isolated alleys.
If players pay attention to their safety, Pokemon Go sounds like it can be a way to have fun and get some health benefits at the same time.