Gamified Exercise: Pokémon Go Study Shows How a Little Walking Makes a Huge Difference

Pokémon Go is demonstrating how a little incentive can make a big difference. The mobile game, which swept the world when it launched back in July, essentially gamifies walking: walk to find Pokémon, walk to hatch eggs, walk to spin Pokéstops and take gyms.

A recent study proves those steps added up, big time. The research paper, titled “Influence of Pokémon Go on Physical Activity: Study and Implications,” looked at tens of thousands of players in the US to see just how much movement the game spurred. Turns out it was a lot.

“In the short time span of the study, we estimate that Pokémon Go has added a total of 144 billion steps to US physical activity,” the paper reads. It was authored by Tim Althoff of Stanford University and members of the Microsoft Research team.

The game’s popularity has dwindled over the past month, but the report shows just how important Pokémon Go—and general exercise—is to longevity: “If Pokémon Go was able to sustain the engage- ment of its current user base, the game could have a measurable effect on life expectancy, adding an estimated 2,825 million years of additional lifetime to its US users alone.”

Recent analyses estimate that physical inactivity contributes to 5.3 million deaths per year worldwide and that it is responsible for a worldwide economic burden of $67.5 billion through health-care expenditure and productivity losses, according to the paper. Considering Go is a free game, its return on investment is quite remarkable.

“If we assume that Pokémon Go users would be able to sustain an activity increase of 1,000 daily steps, this would be associated with a 6% lower mortality risk,” the paper says. “We found that more engaged users exhibited average physical activity increases of up to 1,473 daily steps.”

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