Get Up & GO: How a Gaming App is Inspiring Accidental Exercise

By , SparkPeople Blogger

SparkPeople's tech team gives the Pokemon Go app a whirl.Have you caught Pokémon fever yet? Since the July 6 release of the free Pokémon Go app, gamers across the country (including SparkPeople's very own tech team, shown at right) have been roaming the streets, parks and shopping malls while staring down at their phones—but for once, it's got nothing to do with texting.

Catering to kids, millennials and to thirtysomethings who grew up with Pokémon cards and video games, Pokémon Go is the modern-day mobile incarnation of the original craze from the late '90s. Available on Android and iOS, the app uses your device's GPS and camera to make Pokémon characters appear on the screen of your phone or tablet. You may find Pikachu chilling in your garden during a casual walk through your backyard, or happen upon Squirtle catching a piggyback ride from your dog in the park, for example. The more you play and the farther you travel, the more Pokémon variations will appear. If you think this interactive hunt sounds fun, you're in good company: After just a few days, the app is already poised to surpass Twitter's number of daily active users.

The coolest thing about this geocaching-style app is right there in its name. Instead of sitting around playing virtual games on their phones, people are getting up off the couch, heading outside and logging countless miles in search of the next coveted character hiding around the bend. In addition to capturing lovable monsters, players also collect “eggs,” which can be hatched by covering certain distance requirements. As they build up their Pokédexes, people are also blowing up their step counters, burning mad calories, sending their heart rates soaring and getting some fresh air to boot.

The Pokemon phenomenon has even spawned fitness blogs dedicated to helping people get in shape using the app. One of the most popular, Active 8-Bit, features daily WODs (Workouts of the Day) that combine interval exercises with Pokémon Go, along with nutrition tips.

And in addition to all of the accidental exercise, this augmented reality could even boost your mental health. Research shows that getting outside for some ecotherapy helps reduce depression, sparks creativity and encourages a more positive outlook. Plus, taking several mini-breaks throughout the day has been shown to alleviate daily stress.

Families that Play Together, Stay Together

For moms and dads tired of hearing the “I’m bored” symphony in the thick of the summer doldrums, the timing of Pokémon Go's release couldn't be more perfect. Many parents are getting in on the action themselves, too, joining their little ones on Pokéhunts that double as bonding and exercise sessions.

Outside of Pokémon land, other popular, family-friendly fitness apps include Super Stretch Yoga, NFL Play 60 and Sworkit Kids.

Have you or your kids discovered the health-boosting benefits of Pokémon Go?