- Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game that claims to promote physical activity and health.
- Playing this game increased the daily average steps in the player by 955 additional steps.
- But the effect was not sustained and declined after a period of six weeks.
Pokémon GO improves physical activity among adults who use the game. However the effect of the activity is moderate and not sustained over time.
Pokémon GO was launched in July 2016. It is an augmented reality game that projects graphics onto the real world using smartphones. It has been downloaded over 500 times since its launch.
The game is thought to increase physical activity and promote public health as it demands walking.
Researchers found that during the first week of installation, the daily average steps increased by 955 additional steps which is equivalent to half of the recommendation of physical activity per week by the World Health Organization's (WHO). The WHO recommends an activity of 150 minutes or more each week.
But there was a gradual decline in the number of steps, and this effect was lost after six weeks of game playing.
The research team from Harvard University was co-led by Katherine Howe, Christian Suharlim, and Peter Ueda. They wanted to determine the effect of playing the game on physical activity among young adults in the United States.
They surveyed of 1,182 participants aged 18-35 years online during August 2016. All participants used iPhone 6.
In Pokémon Go, the trainer level of 5 or more is reached after walking for two hours. And around 560 (47.4%) of the participants reported playing Pokémon at this level.
During the first week of installation, the daily average steps increased by 955 additional steps. This would approximately translate into 11 minutes of additional walking daily .
But the number of steps gradually declined over the following five weeks, and by the sixth week the number of steps had returned to pre-installation levels.
Even after accounting for a number of factors such as age, sex, race, weight status, and walkability of the area of residence, that may have influenced the findings, the results remained the same.
The authors write "Our results indicate that the health impact of Pokémon GO might be moderate. Even if smaller amounts of physical activity might also be important for health outcomes, the increase in steps from Pokémon GO, as with many physical activity interventions, was not sustained over time."
Senior author Eric Rimm, says, "What we found were exciting new findings that over a 6 week period you can do a lot to increase physical activity, we just have to be more creative about finding ways to get people to keep exercising."
One limitation was overestimation of the game's effect, as the steps were recorded when the iPhone was carried.
The study is published in The BMJ