For many people, chasing Pokemons down the street on a smartphone screen is a great way of getting some exercise and having fun. But does this virtual reality game really help increase your level of daily exercise? American researchers have been trying to get to the bottom of this and their answer is a qualified “yes”.

With more than 500 million downloads since its launch last July, the Pokemon GO game is a genuine success story. The principle is simple: you walk the streets in pursuit of little virtual creatures hidden in the virtual world – thanks to your mobile phone.

American researchers from Harvard University decided to find out if this type of game helped users to get more exercise. They questioned 1,182 gamers aged between 18 and 35. Nearly 50% of them had a “confirmed” level.

Their results show that during the first week of use, they had walked for an average of 11 minutes more each day, ie almost half the time recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – which is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

That’s the good news. But over the weeks that followed, the amount of time spent walking gradually reduced – over a 6-week period – to the same number of steps as each participant had taken before downloading the game.

Even though the researchers describe the impact of Pokemon on exercise as “moderate”, they do point out that the game can have a beneficial effect on mood.

This post is also available in French

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