Pokemon Go Helping to Fight Childhood Obesity

Have you heard of Pokemon Go? It is the newest and hottest “exergame” that combines technology/video gaming and exercising which relies on tracking body movements using the latest technology while helping to fight obesity.

In case you haven’t heard, the massively popular Pokemon video game series has debuted on mobile devices. A brand new style of Pokemon game, Pokemon Go is essentially a location-based exergame. Players travel with their smartphones (or Pokemon Go Plus) to real-world locations where they can find and catch Pokemon.

Players can go out of their way to explore their local communities in search of Pokemon, or they can momentarily step away from their day-to-day activities to catch a suddenly available friend. After catching them, players can train and battle their Pokemon, trade them with other players, or participate in large-scale social events.

So, why is this important? Exergaming – the term for combining technology/video gaming and exercising which relies on tracking body movements and reactions using the latest technology – helps fight adult and childhood obesity in a fun and exciting way.

Does your child like video games, but dislikes “exercising”?  Combine the two for a great workout!

I will admit that the notion of using technology and video games to increase fitness for kids is controversial.  After all, many believe that the rampant playing of video games has led to increases in childhood obesity.  But, I believe, that we can use something that kids love – video gaming – to get children and teens excited about physical fitness and improve kids’ health.

Let’s take a look at demographics.  Today’s youth are growing up in a world of amazing technological advances that change daily.  Generation Y (born between 1983 and 2001) make up about 95 million people.  Generation Z (born beginning 2001) has a population of approximately 25 million people.  Together, they account for 40% of our current population – a population that has seen the advent of iPhones, Game Boys, Wii and Kinect.  This population uses technology in every facet of their lives.  Why not fitness?

In a study printed in the May 17, 2013, The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the effects of “exergaming.”  They found that, “high intensity exergaming elicited an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate intensity exercise; low intensity exergaming resulted in an energy expenditure equivalent to low intensity exercise.”  Additionally, the high intensity exergaming increased heart rate and the amount of energy and calories burned. Participants reported similar enjoyment levels with both intensities of exergaming, which indicates that children may be equally likely to continue playing the high intensity games – if it’s fun.

Higher intensity exergaming – like Pokemon Go – may be a good form of activity for children and adults to use to gain long-term and sustained health benefits. These findings also support the growing notion that high intensity activity is beneficial for kids’ health, and high intensity exergaming should be considered a means of encouraging families to become more active.  Thus, combating childhood obesity.

Do I think exergaming is beneficial?  You bet!  And, I’ve seen the positive effects firsthand for both kids and adults.  It’s that feeling that you’re playing a game – not working out – which is at the heart of exergaming’s popularity.

I look at exergames as stealth exercise.  Whether a player uses a dance game, a geo-tracking app on their iPhone or pretends to be playing in the World Cup using Wii, he/she is getting exercise without realizing it and having fun.  And, shouldn’t working out be fun in order to capture a child’s ongoing attention?

Looking for your child to get off the couch and prepare for the new school year?  Concerned about weight management?  Searching for a physical activity where your child will want to keep coming back?  Fitness for Health’s Healthy Heart class is just the ticket.  Your child will have a blast this September while breaking a sweat with our heart-pumping exergaming program.  Using our state-of-the-art equipment, kids will get fit, feel good and get healthy.

Or, would you or your child like an athletic EDGE?  Fitness for Health’s EDGE Training works on mental processing, balance, proprioception, motor planning, motor sequencing, visual motor function and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology. All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.