By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
“Are you playing Pokemon Go?” Visit popular attractions in the area and that’s a question people walking with an intense focus on their phone might hear often. The popular game app is getting people, well, going.
Although getting some extra steps in isn’t the reason why the Nintendo video game has become a popular craze; it’s an added healthy benefit. Walking is a must for those that truly want to catch ‘em all while playing Pokemon Go. The free app is basically a virtual scavenger hunt that uses a phone’s GPS and camera to plant different Pokemon characters on a map of a player’s local area. As you travel throughout the outside world, the more Pokemon you will see and be able to capture which is how you advance levels.
“I usually always have my app going, always walking somewhere. I would say a good eight hours of my day goes strictly to Pokemon Go right now,” said Curtis Gaskin, who joins others regularly at the popular Pokestop of Memorial Park in Pottstown.
A Pokestop is a landmark, park or recreational area where people can come to capture lots of Pokemon, battle with others on the game, and collect supplies like the balls used to capture the characters. Gaskin also works but said he enjoys the app so much that a lot of his free time is spent playing the game. He said he especially likes to walk around at night and visit different Pokemon-filled areas.
Since Pokemon Go is a game that requires a lot of time looking down at your phone, it’s easy to get distracted. There have been several reports of players getting hurt because they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings even though the app displays this very warning every time it’s opened. People have even walked into oncoming traffic. These incidents led Pennsylvania State Police to release a community awareness bulletin last week about the game. Check http://www.psp.pa.gov. Other organizations also urge players to be aware of their surroundings. To learn more about how to be safe while playing Pokemon Go, visit the link bit.ly/2afkmkB for a Digital First Media article about the topic.
As long as you make sure to lift your head regularly to watch where you’re going, Pokemon Go is a great way to motivate people to get moving. Randall Knight Jr., who attends Penn State Berks, rides his bike regularly while playing the game. When a Pokemon is near, he will stop to capture it. Players are notified by a vibration and sound alert when there’s Pokemon close. Knight said he spends about two hours each day on the hunt for the colorful figures.
“I probably bike over five miles, closer to 10 miles,” he said.
Knight started playing the game because he noticed how popular it was among his friends. He said he can imagine thousands of people using the app at the same time on his college campus when school begins.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Knight said.
Kevin Gard, clinical professor for the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University, became aware of the physical aspects of Pokemon Go after his 16-year-old son returned from playing the app at a friend’s house.
“He started describing how they were running around the neighborhood trying to catch these things,” Gard said, adding that then he noticed people walking down the street playing the game.
Gard, who is also the Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy Program director at the university, said the game’s design forces players to get up and move around which is a good motivator to get people walking and exercising. It’s recommended that adults get 10,000 daily steps and Gard said people playing Pokemon Go can reach that goal quickly.
He said there are several health benefits to walking such as people burn calories anytime they move around. It’s also a way for some people to maintain or even lose weight, Gard said. People just starting to work out can gain leg muscle strength and increase their endurance, he said, also adding that there are psychological benefits to exercise.
Walking doesn’t affect everyone in the same way because there are lots of variables to consider including how long the walk is and how often people walk.
“Depending on your fitness level, it’s probably not going to bring you a lot of cardiovascular fitness or anything like that unless you’re actually running around,” Gard said.
Since walking is less intensive than running, people may need to do the activity briskly and for a longer time period to see heart healthy benefits. While many people are aware of the health benefits of walking and exercise, it’s still sometimes not enough to get people to actually do it.
“In general; exercise, for most people, I don’t think it’s all that fun,” Gard said.
He said regular physical activity can feel like work so it’s easier to stay indoors on the couch.
“I think the game just helps remove some of those barriers. It’s encouragement to get out there,” he said.
Gard said people don’t mind exercising while playing Pokemon Go for several reasons. He said it’s a major convenience that the game is an app on phones which is “this device that’s tied to people’s hands all the time.” Another fun aspect of the app is that the game takes a form of reality because players are seeing a map of the area their walking. Then there’s the fact that players get to interact with one another while looking for Pokemon, he said.
Gaskin said he meets people all the time from playing Pokemon Go. He’s not usually a social person but said the app automatically creates a shared interest so it’s easier to start to talking to someone playing the game.
Knight said he didn’t use to be the kind of guy to go up to strangers but Pokemon Go makes it easy to be social with others.
“It’s such a good conversation starter because it’s easy to tell if someone’s playing it. There’s not that disconnect between two people.”
UPCOMING EVENTS WHERE YOU CAN PLAY POKEMON GO
POKEMON GO IN LOCAL PARKS CONTEST
When: Happening now until July 31
Where: There are 12 regional parks in the contest including some in Montgomery County, Berks County and Chester County.
More Details: The contest called “On Your Park, Get Set, Go!” encourages area residents to visit the recreational areas then vote by taking a selfie photo at the park or dropping off tickets. Votes at the parks this Saturday will be worth double the points.The winner of the contest can win up to $10,000 for park improvements. Many recreational areas such as parks are PokeStops which are great places to capture the characters and get supplies. For videos about each participating park and more information about the contest, visit the “On Your Park 2016” tab on the Fit for Life website at www.pottsmercfit4life.com or the Mission Healthy Living Facebook page.
POKEMON GO AT ELMWOOD PARK ZOO
When: Saturday from noon to 4:30 p.m.
Where: The zoo is located at 1661 Harding Blvd. in Norristown
More Details: Pokemon Go players that show the app at the admissions window will get in the zoo at half price. The zoo has eight PokeStops. People can log in their the amount of Pokemon they capture at the zoo with staff for a chance to win prizes. For more information, visit the website http://www.elmwoodparkzoo.org/event/274.