Pokémon Go may be good for your healthBy Veita Bland, M.D. / August 19, 2016
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In this day of smartphone and computer apps for every conceivable thing, one of the good things we have seen is the multitude of apps that promote good health and good health habits.
You can find an app that measures any bodily function you may want to follow. How many calories you burned, how far you walked today, and how much sleep you got are just a few of the simple apps that are now available.
The question on the minds of many healthcare researchers is how much is this actually helping the average Joe? How many people are using these apps and how long are they using them? Dr. Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner in Glasgow, Scotland points to the fact that most apps that promote health are bought by those who want to get healthy. We need to reach those people who have not yet seen the benefits of physical activity.
To that end, Dr. McCartney makes the assertion that the Pokémon Go game’s health benefits may outweigh its well documented risks.
Pokémon Go is a smartphone app that is a virtual scavenger hunt for cartoon characters in real locations. I had a kid tell me last week that he came across several computer characters in my office while waiting for his mother to complete her visit. Pokémon Go is not marketed as a health app but players end up doing a lot of walking.
Dr. McCartney says, “The possibility for apps to make the streets an active, reclaimed playground in which to have interconnected fun are boundless. Increased physical activity is a tantalizing side effect. Game on.”
Now, to balance the equation we have to mention the down side of the game. We have heard the tragic events of people being injured due to not paying attention to their surroundings and only looking at their phone screens. We have heard of people being robbed while out playing the game. There are even stories of people getting stranded in caves and at sea and requiring the services of emergency personel.
The ever optimistic Dr. McCartney does acknowledge the game’s down side. She points out that just like most things, playing Pokémon Go has a mix of benefits and risks. She comments on meeting people while out playing the game which is a plus. She also states that the activity is preventing heart attacks and being outside may help prevent vitamin D deficiency.
It is no secret that physical activity can prevent many chronic diseases. Dr. Mohammad Forouzanfar, assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle comments that these applications encourage people to get off the couch and be more active. However, their efficacy, safety and sustainability still need to be evaluated. He added, “Technology can promote sustainable improvement in lifestyle, and some positive aspects of this game can motivate people to be more active, while enjoying the reward and joy the activity has to offer.”
Well, I guess I better download Pokémon Go to my phone and see if I can find that Pikachu monster that kid told me about in my office.
Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist.Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.