Fitness Clubs, Health Services to ‘Poke’-mon Video Gamers into Shape

BY Courtney Huckabay

"The new game Pokémon Go is certainly a popular craze, but is it good for your health?" Mirium Tucker asks. Pokémon Go involves the use of a smartphone app in a virtual scavenger hunt for cartoon characters, but in real locations. Dr. Margaret McCartney believes the game's health benefits may outweigh its well-​documented risks.

"Most health apps that promote physical activity tend to get users who want to be healthy. Pokémon Go isn't marketed as a health app, but players still end up doing a lot of walking," McCartney writes in her weekly GP column.

"The possibilities for apps to make the streets an active, reclaimed playground in which to have interconnected fun are boundless. Increased physical activity is a tantalizing side effect. Game on."

With 28.9% of Americans playing video games, there is ample opportunity for the fitness and health industries to market to Pokémon Go players, as found by AudienceSCAN.

McCartney acknowledges some of the game's downsides, including the fact that Pokémon hunters have had to be rescued by emergency services from the sea and caves. Moreover, criminals can easily target the game's gathering spots. Teenage players have been robbed of their phones at gunpoint, and real shootouts have involved players, she says.

"Sure: Pokémon Go can and should be made safer. Like most things, playing it has a mix of benefit and risk," McCartney writes, noting that she's met other local people while out playing the game. "In our modern online lives we all need real-​life connectivity, and the internet can facilitate that."

And the health benefits might not be obvious, she says. "We never hear about the things that didn't happen: heart attacks prevented through more exercise, or vitamin D deficiency that geeks have avoided, blinking in the sunlight while catching a Pikachu monster."

Advertisers can focus on the benefits of an active lifestyle leading to better sleep. 45% of Video Gamers set personal goals to get better sleep this year, according to AudienceSCAN data. And another 34% of gamers want to improve their appearance. Exercise through Pokémon Go can help them achieve this goal as well!

Mohammad H Forouzanfar, MD, PhD, assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington, told Medscape Medical News: "These applications may encourage people to get off the couch and be more active, but their efficiency, safety, and sustainability still need to be evaluated."

Still, he said, "Technology can promote sustainable improvement in lifestyle, and some positive aspects of this game can motivate people to be more active, while enjoying the reward and joy the activity has to offer."

Reach these gamers with internet banner ads: AudienceSCAN found 24% took action after seeing them in the past month.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.