By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the newest craze in mobile gaming, Pokémon Go. If not, here’s the scoop: It’s an augmented-reality game where you use your smartphone as a window into the Pokémon universe, and you search for Pokémon to capture and train. Then, you can battle them against Pokémon’s from other players.
Pokémon are geo-tagged. Meaning they hang out at certain real-life locations, waiting to be captured by roving Pokémon Trainers (players). That means that keen players have to get themselves between locations to discover new Pokémon.
This need to get from location to location was not an accidental feature of the game. In fact, the game was designed with exercise in mind. According to John Hanke who is the founder of the company who developed the game, exercise was one of the main goals of the game.
To hatch virtual Poké-eggs you have to walk a certain real-life distance to help them incubate. These eggs require distances of 2km, 5km and even 10km of walking to hatch. If fact there is very little you can do in the game while you are sitting still. This means that players often wander for hours looking for Pokémon to catch, landmarks to get objects and sites to battle. Just this week, a patient mentioned to me that he had accidentally walked 22km searching for Pokémon on the weekend. That’s a half marathon!
So what’s the big deal?
It’s brilliant that people are moving more! The human body is designed for lots of long slow walks, with short bursts of activity for running from predators or hunting dinner. So if you use Pokemon and look at it in an interval training and primitive training sense, the game can actually be a good thing!
There are even reports that Pokémon has brought some autistic, depressed and anxious people out of their shells and given them a reason to socialise, exercise and interact with the outside world more than they normally would. The effects of positive human interaction and exercise for mental health concerns are well documented and powerful.
However, there have been plenty of reports already that people are not only getting themselves into mischief trying to capture elusive Pokémon, but are hurting themselves. Twitter is alive with users complaining of swollen and sore legs, exhaustion and sore necks.
By having your head down, you actually increase the amount of force on your neck by double or more. Sometimes referred to in the media as ‘tech neck’, this is an ailment of the modern era. Not to say that you should never put your head down, but holding it in prolonged stare at your smart device will lead to more problems than the Pokemon game is working on. Physiotherapists including our team see the issues with this on a regular if not daily basis and unfortunately the average age of the patient is also getting younger due to young people spending lots more time on their devices.
If you also consider the increased rate the injuries from normally-sedentary folks jumping fences, exploring through dangerous territory (think landmine fields, construction sites and abandoned buildings) and traffic accidents from people walking with their nose on their phones.
What we would recommend at the Movement Team is that you make sure you check all of the pre requisites and also grade up on your exercise. If you view Pokemon Go as an Movement Session you would never go from not looking at your smartphone to spending 2+ hours doing the same activity. So what you would need to do here is simply build your time on the game slowly. Start with 20 minutes first and then build it up slowly as you get fitter and more adapted to the task.
Another thing to consider is do you have all of the Movement Pre Requisites to complete a task? Do you have great Thoracic and Cervical (Middle back and Neck) range of movement? Do you have enough strength and power to be able to jump over a fence to go Battle with the Pokemon hiding in the field? If you haven't sprinted for 10 years perhaps look at practicing 10 m first and then building up!
All of us here at The Movement Team love the idea of people getting out more and exploring using natural movement patterns where possible. However simply going from nothing to 2 hours plus per day of exercise is going to have a physiological response- be that a favourable one or one where your legs are sore for days post exercise!
Isabelle is currently the 1st Team Physio for Samford Rangers. Isabelle has worked in private practice around Brisbane before finding her way to Samford and The Movement Team. Isabelle is a qualified pilates instructor and also has a huge passion for dance and all things movement.