Pokémon Go: the future of exercise prescription?

A video game is getting people to exercise? Yup, that’s right! Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game for your smartphone, is getting gamers off the couch and pounding the pavement.

Pokémon Go has users walking through their real-world environment trying to catch virtual monsters that are overlaid on the phone’s camera. Pokémon (pocket monsters) can be hiding just about anywhere – behind your garage, up the street from your school and anywhere your phone’s GPS can take you. Your job is to capture these cute monsters and train them to fight each other. Pretty cool, right?

For nostalgic Millennials who remember the days of Pokémon trading cards, the game is a revival of a much-loved cartoon character that has made the leap from Nintendo Game Boy to smartphones for the first time. Adults and children are scrambling to download the game in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. and this has overloaded developer Niantic Labs’ servers and caused delays for the game’s release in other countries. 

Pokémon Go is not the first video game that has exercise built-in to the experience. Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit have been moving and shaking gamers for some time now, but Pokémon Go is set to revolutionize the way we play video games because of the way it blends virtual and real worlds. Users are racking up the miles playing Pokémon Go, so much so that they’ve taken to social media to complain about sore legs!

We’ve talked about mixed reality, also known as augmented reality, and its potential to change the way physiotherapists treat and manage patients in an earlier post. Pokémon Go’s early success suggests augmented reality games can motivate people to walk considerable distances – the potential is there to use this kind of game as a tool for exercise prescription. Could you see yourself using a game like Pokémon Go to prescribe exercises? Is this the future of exercise?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.