Pokémon Go! Promotes Walking and Decreases Sitting Time

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., College of Education, Health and Human Services Kent State

Dr. Barkley

Jacob Barkley, Ph.D.,
College of Education, Health and Human Services
Kent State 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Our group has demonstrated that cellular telephone (cell phone) use is positively associated with sedentary behavior (i.e., sitting). To that end, high cell phone users sit for 80 to 100 minutes longer than their lower-use peers. We have also shown that cell phone use during exercise decreases exercise intensity and slows free-living walking speed. In other words, cell use may be comparable to traditional sedentary screen use in that it promotes sitting and may interfere with physical activity. However, some cell phone functions may actually promote positive health behaviors.

Fitness apps, connecting with active peers and administering health recommendations via the cell phone all may have utility in promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior. While not well studied, novel physically-interactive cell phone games may also promote physical activity. One such game, Pokémon Go! requires users to walk through real environments and locate avatars in the game using GPS. The purpose of the game is to find these avatars. In order to find more avatars, the player will need to walk to more areas. Therefore, playing Pokémon Go! may promote walking.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Pokémon Go!

Pokémon Go!
Wikipedia Image

Response: In our participants, the game did successfully promote walking behavior and decrease sitting. Participants doubled their walking the first week after downloading Pokémon Go! and walking was still significantly greater than baseline (i.e., before the game was downloaded) weeks after the initial download. Therefore, playing these types of games may promote greater walking behavior and, to a lesser extent, decrease sitting.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Sometimes to adopt a new health behavior an individual needs some incentive or a creative way to package the behavior to make it more appealing. For sedentary individuals who are interested in playing cell-phone based video games, physically-interactive games like Pokémon Go! may help the individual walk more and sit less while participating in activity, playing a game, that they find enjoyable.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: While excessive cell phone use predicts greater sedentary activity and may interfere with exercise, not all cell phone uses are inherently bad for an individual’s health behaviors. I would recommend that individuals limit their total daily screen time and if they want to play games on their phones, Pokémon Go! is likely a better option than Angry Birds. Future research is needed to examine the efficacy of using physically-interactive video games as part of interventions designed to increase physical activity in sedentary individuals. This will likely be most successful in high cell phone users.  

I would like to acknowledge my co-principal investigator, Dr. Andrew Lepp. 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Jacob E. Barkley, Andrew Lepp, Ellen L. Glickman. “Pokémon Go!” May Promote Walking, Discourage Sedentary Behavior in College Students. Games for Health Journal, 2017; 6 (3): 165 DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2017.0009

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.




Last Updated on July 10, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD