New article reveals getting healthy CAN be all fun and games

I can’t quite believe I’m writing about this. But when I came across a recent article about Pokémon Go, I felt compelled to weigh in on the craze.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Pokémon Go is a smartphone app — a game in which you hunt down and “catch” virtual cartoon monsters hiding in real locations. This, of course, means scouting through public places — parks, main streets, you name it — while watching your phone for clues.

Obviously, this opens the door to quite a few potential hazards.

Pokémon Go players have found themselves in need of rescue from some pretty crazy places — from caves to oceans. To say nothing about the potential for criminals to capitalize on the distraction. Young people have been robbed and even shot while playing the game.

With reports like these, you can see why the following headline grabbed my attention: “Do the health benefits of Pokémon Go outweigh the risks?” And the answer to that question came as a rather pleasant surprise.

Apparently, Pokémon Go actually can help people get healthy.

I admit, the whole premise seems extraordinarily ridiculous to me. And I think it’s rather sad that something so silly is actually gaining credence in medical circles as a legitimate way to get people to exercise.

But if this is what it’s come down to, who am I to judge? If Pokémon Go gets people moving, then maybe it’s not such a bad place to start.

As you can tell, even as I write this, I am filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, we already have plenty of health apps that directly promote physical activity. But the thing is, these tend to attract users who want to be healthy — and who, in a lot of cases, already are.

In that respect, Pokémon Go serves a distinct purpose. It engages people who might otherwise be sitting on their couch playing video games… and gives them a fun reason to go out and do a whole lot of walking.

It’s a pretty ingenious idea, when you think about it. Technology so often leads to isolation. And here you have an app that turns the outdoors into a virtual playground that you can enjoy with other players…and get some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise in the process.

The role that even low-intensity physical activity plays in chronic disease prevention is undeniable. That’s why I constantly write about it, and encourage you and all of my patients to be more active. You just have to do it and be as consistent with it as possible — and if looking for cartoon monsters is what it takes to get you (or your kids or grandkids) there, then I’m all for it.

Any way you look at it, technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives so far. Of course it’s going to change the way we exercise, too. And while I am not a big fan of “gaming” by any stretch of the imagination, if a certain app helps to ward off vitamin D deficiency and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity under the guise of fun, then, well… we need more of those.

But the question is, will people still be out there looking for Pokémon once the craze is over? Or will they just move on to the next buzz-worthy app?

Already, the Pokémon Go fad appears to be dying down. And for all of my cynicism about it, I have to admit… when the public’s short attention span finds the next fad to focus on, I hope that, whatever it is, it’s just as good at keeping people off their couches and on their feet.