4 Pokémon Go Health Benefits

JULY 21, 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
In addition to being a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Texas A&M Health Science Center, Matt Hoffman, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, is also somewhat of a Pokémon professor.
 
Dr. Hoffman earned the title after being a vocal advocate for Pokémon Go, a game where players use their smartphones and GPS to walk around in the real world catching Pokémon characters.
 
With an influx of individuals getting outside, playing the game, and reaching out to others to find out where to catch certain Pokémon, Dr. Hoffman believes the game has led to the emergence of a new social community. 
 
While walking around the A&M campus with some friends on one memorable weekend, he ran into a student who asked for tips on how to play the game.
 
“After I helped him and he walked off, it was in that moment I truly felt like a ‘Pokémon professor,’” Dr. Hoffman told Pharmacy Times. 
 
In addition to the comradery, Dr. Hoffman said he believes there are some actual health benefits to playing the game:
 
1. Pokémon Go encourages physical activity.
 
The major benefit is the increase in physical activity through walking and built-in incentives to get players to walk 2, 5, or 10 kilometers to earn awards, according to Dr. Hoffman. 
 
“Before this game, I was a person who preferred to exercise indoors at my local gym, and I would never walk,” Dr. Hoffman said. “This game has me walking outdoors at least 5 miles on weekends alone, not including the brief walks I do in the weekday afternoons after work.”
 
Some users have anecdotally reported that Pokémon Go is more motivating than traditional activity trackers, like FitBit. Dr. Hoffman said this may have something to do with the reward center of our brain. 
 
“I personally view Pokémon Go as a strong tool to combat childhood obesity in our nation, so I would certainly recommend it as an option to children and parents looking to participate in low-impact and sustainable physical activity,” he said. 
 
2. Pokémon Go could improve cognitive development. 
 
“Younger players may gain the added benefits of cognitive development through gameplay since the game incorporates elements of strategy and planning,” Dr. Hoffman said. “This early exposure and understanding of logical thinking may facilitate learning in academic settings, as well.”
 
 
3. Pokémon Go could potentially help reduce depression. 
 
Dr. Hoffman argued that the game inspires a sense of community and encourages 2 positive predictors of mental health: social interaction and activity. 
 
A Pharmacy Times Facebook fan also commented that she has seen stories in her feed about Pokémon Go reducing depression while out socializing. 
 


4. Pokémon Go may aid patients with autism. 
 
Pokémon Go has also become popular among patients with autism, helping these individuals socialize and break down rigid routines.   
 
Lenore Koppelman, for example, introduced her son Ralphie to the game, and he immediately started shrieking with joy after catching a Pokémon. After finding his first one at a bakery, he ran outside and met another little boy playing the game, Lenore wrote in a Facebook post. The boy told Ralphie he had caught more than 100, and Ralphie said, “Wow!” and high-fived him. 
 
“I almost cried,” Lenore wrote in the Facebook post. 
 
A friend of Lenore’s steered Ralphie to the playground because there was a lot of Pokémon activity there, and Lenore said her son begged to go, which was unusual because he liked to stick to a routine. 
 
His Pokémon adventures opened him up to talk with fellow players he met on his path and also led to some successful moments of eye contact, which is a common obstacle for patients with autism. 
 
“My autistic child is socializing. Talking to people. Smiling at people. Verbalizing. Participating in pragmatic speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. This is amazing,” Lenore wrote.  
 
 
Safety Tips
 
Dr. Hoffman offered the following tips to keep in mind while playing Pokémon Go:
 
Stay hydrated
Wear appropriate clothing for the weather
Wear sunscreen during the day
Only play in well-lit public spaces at night
Travel as a group (“It’s not only more fun, it’s also safer,” he said.)
Don’t drive and play
Keep phones adequately charged in case of emergency situations
 


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