How is Pokemon Go Changing the Landscape for Childhood Obesity

Overweight and obese people in the United States of America has increased consistently as automation of everyday tasks has increased and cheaper, process food has become more accessible. There is approximately a 13% chance that a high school student is or becomes obese, and an even higher chance of being overweight. By mentioning these terms though, it is important to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because this organization is responsible for determining the target body mass index (BMI) or weight of someone through research. Physical activity and muscle mass of a child leading up to high school and through high school will have a large impact on how they will decide to function in the future.

Gamification’ of Physical Fitness

The ‘gamification’ of fitness has been an attempted business plan for companies for decades, although the introduction of the smart phone, reduced sized accelerometers, and increased functionality of watches, this has become more feasible. Many applications use the art of creating desire to impress or achieve goals and challenges as a means to push a user into becoming more active. Other applications create more of a game out of the ability to capture whether the user has taken a step or is running, biking, swimming, etc.

Zombie Run is a great success story about the ‘gamification’ of physical fitness (primarily running and walking). It works by creating a story, providing you with missions, and convincing you that you are being chased by zombies. The only way to lose them is to run. It encourages you to come back by building on the story every time you use the app.

The Introduction of Pokemon Go

A more recent, although slightly different and less fitness oriented, application that has become an overnight success since it’s release on July 6th, 2016 is Pokemon Go. This application is the first popularly adopted augmented reality game, designed to allow players to use the digital application with real world cues based on location.

After a brief tutorial, the goal is to walk around the actual world in order to encounter and catch Pokemon. The augmented reality application follows your location using GPS and Google Maps so your physical location is mirrored in the game interface.

With this in mind, Niantic and Nintendo used the player’s imagination, sense of adventure, and the need to explore the unknown to their advantage by pushing the player to walk more in order to progress further throughout the game. The application only records walking (or running) if it is open and tracking.

Pokemon Go Success Stories

Although the application requires the user to walk or run to destinations or to hatch Pokemon eggs, Pokemon Go was never promoted as a fitness related app. Because of this, the users didn’t feel the normal anxiety felt by people who have not worked out in a long time or ever in their lives.

Unexpectedly, only a couple of weeks after the application was released children and adults reported weight loss success stories, some of which were in the 10s of pounds. People who would otherwise be sitting indoors or driving to nearby destinations decided to go outside and walk (and play).

No only were users finding success in weight loss, but also in mental health problems. Feeling helpless and lonely is a major cause of a sedentary lifestyle, of which many obese people have. Simply being outside, enjoying a game, and interacting with others has helped so many people begin to open up.

The beginning of Popular Augmented Reality Applications

This is the beginning of a new wave of phone and watch applications that merge the interactions between the real world and the digital world. Augmented reality headsets such as the Microsoft Hololens, the Meta, and the secretive company called Magic Leap are beginning to appear and will benefit from the idea becoming integrated into everyday vocabulary.

As augmented and virtual reality technology increases in popularity, more fitness related applications will be released that will have major impacts on obesity as a whole.