Could Pokémon GO, the hit augmented reality game launched in July 2016, benefit the health of the smartphone-obsessed young?

Anoop Misra, Chairman of the Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology, New Delhi, highlights the health benefits in a research proposals put forth recently.

Speaking on the rise of non-communicable diseases and promotion of junk food at a workshop titled ‘Food Labelling, Claims and Advertisements’ organised by the Centre for Science and Environment, he says, with newer apps that include gaming devices, children might be motivated to exercise, and enhanced sustainability might have a considerable effect on obesity or diabetes.

Misra shared an abstract of his paper Pokémon Go, Obesity and Diabetes: A Perspective from India, with BusinessLine. Co-written with Amerta Ghosh and published in Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, it points to the rising incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in India which put adolescents and young adults at risk. He quoted a 12-country study that included India, which found that children averaged 8.6 hours of sedentary time daily.

Prospects of exergames In this lies a novel opportunity to emphasise use of these ‘exergames’, a synonym for fitness games. Children could walk with smartphones outside, or go catch some Pokémon, says Misra. “A physical activity regimen combined with such games (others include Zombies, Run!, Ingress and 7-Minute Superhero Workout) could be an interesting concept to research,” he said.

Exergames go back as far as the early 1980s, when Atari launched a Joyboard, a balance board designed on a four-switch controller. Then, there was Bandai’s Powerpad, Dance Dance Revolution by Konami, and a variety of game bikes that gave users a workout as they played, and more recently, Nintendo’s Wii Fit and Kinect for Xbox 360.

“As it is, it is difficult to sustain children’s interest in exercise. But, Pokémon GO or similar smartphone-linked games are games of the future, and I hope different games will provide sustained interest.” He and his team are in the process of initiating some research into exergaming’s effectiveness.