In just over a week Pokémon Go has done what few, if any, national public health campaigns have achieved: it has encouraged people to go outside and exercise.

The national physical activity guidelines tell us that we should be aiming for 60 minutes of physical activity a day however research tells us that only 60% of Australians do less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day.

Why Pokémon Go is good for you

While it’s early days, there are no shortage of tweets from people sharing how they, their kids, their friends are getting out and moving more.

According to Dr Shaun Larkin, CEO of HCF Australia, speaking at the QUT Real World Futures breakfast on Wednesday, “Pokémon Go is the best health app ever made, because it is getting people moving”.

John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go developer Niantic, said his team had three big goals in mind when creating Pokémon Go:

  1. Exercise: the game rewards players for exercising, rather than pressurising them to move, which is the concept of many exercise apps
  2. To see the world with new eyes:” The game encourages players to find new-to-them landmarks, sights and attractions in their neighbourhood, by creating Pokéstops and Gyms at real-life sites. Hanke says that by encouraging exploration, “Pokémon Go” can “make your life better in some small way”.
  3. Breaking the ice: Players are organising “Pokémon Go” outings, walking around their local area and searching out Pokémon. As the levels of the game increase, players need to team up with fellow players to conquer those Gyms. This is a deliberate strategy: Hanke describes “Pokémon Go” as an “icebreaker” that “gives people a reason to spend time together.”

As well as helping people get up and move, there are also anecdotal reports that trying to catch those little critters is also helping people’s mental health. Which is no mean feat in a society where mental illness is reportedly increasing.

We know that as well as improving overall health, walking helps fight depression as it releases endorphins which improve mood and help reduce anxiety. I love that Pokémon Go is getting people outside.

I’m looking forward to hearing of workplaces starting lunchtime walking / Pokémon Go groups. What a great team building activity while getting to get to know your colleagues in a fun way!

That any computer game can have this level of impact is remarkable. Pokémon Go having this degree of positive impact is (I believe) unprecedented with a computer game.

Thank you Niantic. Long may it last.

Consider joining me at the 2016  Social Media Success Summit – it’s on in October and as it’s a virtual conference, you attend via your computer at home or at work – and registration is now open

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