Hopefully you have heard of Pokémon Go by now (read this guide from Vox here if not or watch the video below); the free app has gone viral worldwide, with over 15 million downloads and counting. What you might not have considered is that Pokémon Go might be the hottest new fitness app. 

Pokémon was a 90s phenomenon, so it’s no surprise that its popularity is particularly high amongst adults who are old enough to remember the original incarnation and who feel some nostalgic connection to the game and its characters.  

In very simple terms, the app uses your phone’s GPS to detect where and when you are in the game. Pokémon appear around you (on your phone screen) so that you can go and catch them. As you move around, more Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is.

Players can catch, train and battle with virtual creatures that are found in the game, in real-world locations. Users meet up in real life hot spots to battle and train at virtual gyms. Through the latest AR (Augmented Reality) technology, Pokémon Go simulates what it would be like if the creatures really were all around you.

What Pokémon Go looks like on your phone. Source: www.theverge.com

What Pokémon Go looks like on your phone. Source: www.theverge.com

A surprising result from Pokémon’s popularity is its sudden impact on fitness and physical activity, thanks to the need for players to move constantly within the real world in order to keep finding and catching creatures. It’s been estimated that in the last week or so since the game’s launch, many children are more active than they’ve ever been.

The simple premise of gamification, with reward, is motivating millions to be more active, as they run around their local area hunting for Pokémon. People are so distracted by the Pokémon search that they don’t realise they are moving around and exercising far more than usual.

A Jawbone (a type of wearable) user reported recently that they had taken 65% more steps than normal after they started playing the game. One player in Kentucky, USA, recorded a total of 12,000 steps taken in one day; a lot more than his usual daily total of 3,000. Some have even taken to social media to complain of their sore legs, brought on by all the extra walking.

Source: Mashable.com

Source: Mashable.com

Another surprise benefit is for people with mental health issues like agoraphobia and depression, who are suddenly leaving the house on their quest to catch more Pokémon. Taking part in some physical activity, and meeting new people, has meant a hugely positive impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.

Is Pokémon Go the ultimate fitness app?

Well, mobile usage is still incredibly high. With over 15 million downloads already, Pokémon Go is on track to have more users than Twitter; it’s already had more Android downloads than the dating app Tinder. This goes to show that mobile is still a very powerful tool, and one which people are constantly looking to for access to new experiences. It’s also refreshing that users are not deterred from using something that makes them need to go outside and walk around.

The app’s success also proves that digital technology is a perfect way to get people more motivated to be active, thereby improving their fitness. Players have to move to a new location every four minutes, and rewards are actually real rather than virtual. The game is the perfect example of successful exercise gamification in action. One website has even published a ‘Pokémon Go Fitness Tips’ guide…

There’s also a friendly competition element amongst players, helping build a sense of community as well as further encouraging people to get off the sofa and go outside.

From our perspective at Activetainment, the Pokémon Go phenomenon is a great example of how gaming can lead more people to do more exercise This is something we’ve been working with for a while with our ebove concept. You can read more about how we’re introducing gaming into the indoor fitness world through our ebove indoor cycling concept here.

Our ebove indoor cycling concept focuses on gamifying exercise, making it so fun that the user forgets they are working out

Our ebove indoor cycling concept focuses on gamifying exercise, making it so fun that the user forgets they are working out

It is also further proof that technologies like AR and VR have a huge place in the fitness world. Whilst this new app is very simple, and free to download, we feel it’s just the start of the mass adoption of augmented and virtual reality in everyday life. Pokémon Go might just be the ultimate fitness app. 

P.s Pokémon Go isn’t available everywhere yet, but you can find out when it’s launched in your region here