Only 25% of US high school students meet CDC physical activity guidelines. Over 40% report playing video games for > 3 hours/day. This epidemic of inactivity may lead to health consequences including obesity. Augmented Reality Games (ARGs) may increase activity through video gameplay. Our objective was to quantify the effect of an ARG, Pokémon GO, on adolescent physical activity.
Parents (ne = 546) of children ages 13-18 completed an anonymous online questionnaire about their child's physical activity and Pokémon GO gameplay. Subjects recorded the number of steps taken by their child for 3 weeks; Week 1 preceded the game's release, Week 2 was immediately after release, and Week 3, 1 month after. The dataset consisted of 2 groups: those who started playing around Pokémon GO's release (Pokémon GO Group, n = 418) and those who did not play or started playing after Week 1 (Comparison Group, n = 128). Median daily steps of each week were compared between groups.
There were no significant differences in age, gender, ethnicity or income between groups. The Comparison Group had a 14.8% increase in steps between Weeks 1 and 2; the Pokémon GO Group had a 29.1% increase in that same time. Weeks 1 and 3 were not significantly different between the two groups but Week 2 was (p > 0.05).
Pokémon GO led to a minimal but significant initial increase in activity. Although future studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of ARGs on physical activity, our study suggests that the purported exercise benefits are minimal.