Playing Pokémon GO makes you healthier?

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Review: Gotta catch’em all! Pokémon GO and physical activity among young adults: difference in differences study

Author: Katherine B Howe, Christian Suharlim,Peter Ueda, Daniel Howe, Ichiro Kawachi, Eric B Rimm

 

Pokémon GO is a mobile augmented reality game that has been popular throughout the word since it was issued in early July 2016. I believe that many of you have played this game. Though the game was initially released Australia and New Zealand, I can well remember that some of my friends desperately longed that this game could be available in Macau. Fortunately, I happened to have a chance to travel Australia in July last year. So I could have early access to the game and see how Australians were affected by this game. My previous impressions on Austrians are that most of them are obsessed and sedentary. However, I could find crowds of people chasing Pokémons cheerily almost at any place I have been to.

Yes, indeed, Pokémon GO have changed our impression on “mobile games “which keep players to stay indoors or maintaining the same posture for a long time. Pokémon GO enables players to leave their seat and walk, combining games and life together tactfully. If one would catch a Pokémon, s/he must seek it all around in the streets or fields. Therefore, Pokémon GO has been presumed to increase physical activity and improve public health.

This study aimed to find out the authenticity of the abovementioned claims. K.B. Howe et. al. conducted an online survey to investigate 2225 young adults (aged 18 to 35) resided in the US and  1182 valid responses were collected (including 560 Pokémon GO players and 622 non-players) eliminating missing, illegal or illogical data. The data collected includes participants’ demographics (age, sex, race group, body weight status, zip code of residence, etc.), a screen shot to prove the Pokémon GO installation date, and screenshots of the number of steps taken every day over the two months’ study participation duration.

Based on the demographic data collection, Pokémon GO players tended to be younger, have a lower education and household income, and were more likely to be single, more importantly, be obese in contrast to Non-players.

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They also found that the average of steps taken daily was 4256 for participants who played Pokémon GO in the four weeks before they installed the game. No much difference to the counterpart of non- player, which was 4126 steps daily. However, after installation of the game, the daily steps among players grew up dramatically to 5123 on average before gradually decreased to the pre-installation level over six weeks, whereas the number of daily steps for non-players remained steady at around 4000 over the same period.

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Fig 2 provides a more apparent way to look at the difference between Pokémon GO players and non-players. Thus, the authors confirmed a pattern through the difference in difference analysis that Pokémon GO linked with a significant increase in daily number of steps of 955 during the first week. The association was attenuated over the following weeks and show no significance by the sixth week.

The authors proposed that supposing steps of 0.8m at a pace of 4km/h, the change in number of steps in the first week would translate into 11 minutes of additional walking daily, which meets around half of the World Health Organization recommendation of at least 150 minutes throughout a week, i.e., 21.4 minutes a day.

The results also suggested that the positive change in number of steps occurs only in a short term, which implies that as the decrease of players’ fangle, the health impact would be moderate gradually.

 

Reference:

Howe, K. B., Suharlim, C., Ueda, P., Howe, D., Kawachi, I., & Rimm, E. B. (2016). Gotta catch’em all! Pokémon GO and physical activity among young adults: difference in differences study. Bmj, 355, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6270

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