Getting active with Pokémon Go

The Pokémon Go craze that swept the country last summer did have positive health impacts for participants, particularly among young adults who are overweight or obese, according to a new study.

The study, presented at an American Heart Association event, found that the smartphone game increased participants’ daily step totals by nearly 2,000 steps. Those with low physical activity levels or who are overweight or obese benefited the most, according to the study.

“Our findings suggest that active-play games, such as Pokémon Go, may encourage people who live sedentary lifestyles, who otherwise may not participate in traditional forms of exercise, to increase their physical activity,” said Hanzhang Xu, a graduate student at Duke University School of Nursing, in a news release. “We think our study could have implications for the design of other digital health interventions that encourage people to exercise more.”

The study included 167 iPhone users who played the game in July. Participants provided screenshots of their daily steps reported by the iPhone health app over a two week period.

Before playing the augmented-reality game, participants walked an average of 5,678 steps per day. After playing, they walked an average of 7,654 steps.

While an average increase of 2,000 steps may not seem like much, other studies have shown that increase can lower the risk of heart attack or stroke by 8 percent in high-risk people.

The researchers also found participants were twice as likely to reach 10,000 daily steps after playing Pokémon Go. And the percentage of days in which that step goal was met increased from 15.3 percent to 27.5 percent, according to the study.

In addition, researchers found that people with low physical activities levels or who were overweight or obese benefited most from the game. They walked nearly 3,000 additional steps every day after playing the game, according to the study.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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