Pokemon Go : The Fitness Guru????

There has always been a negative stigma around technology and the impacts that it has on health. Children being brought up in the 21st Century watching television instead of reading a book, playing on the play station or x box instead of playing outside in the fresh air and now children as young as three and four being able to use a mobile telephone better than the average adult.

In a changing world where we are reliant on technology as an essential part of daily life both in our private life and in the business world; in terms of safety – for example carrying a mobile phone is peace of mind in the event of an emergency, or in business we are reliant on computers for ease of worldwide communications and in schools learning through an interactive whiteboard is standard practise, so what are the real impact on health?

‘Gaming’ can cause a number of health related problems from strain injuries and musculoskeletal issues to deep vein thrombosis. A study carried out in 2010 found that children who spent as much as two hours playing on their consoles per day are twice as likely to have difficulty concentrating in school.

The impact regarding children and online game playing has been well documented and has linked behavioural problems in children largely due to the portrayal of aggression and violence played out in ‘top-seller’ games – guns and violence in ‘call of duty’ or stealing cars and gang crime in ‘grand theft auto’. Although these games are sold with an age certificate as guidance all too often they fall into the hands of minors and can result in an obsessive ‘gaming’ lifestyle.

Online gaming encourages people from across the world to play against one another this can also result in linking the most vulnerable, reducing online security, viruses and hacking of accounts.

Physical issues linked with excessive gaming are black rings around the eyes, muscle stiffness in the shoulders and lower back, from bad posture, and lack of sleep, as well as arthritic issues affecting the hands, from continuous over use of consoles. These have been given names such as ‘playstation thumb’, blistering and swelling on the thumbs, and ‘nintendinitis’ leading stress on tendons, nerves and ligaments resulting in ‘tennis elbow’ like symptoms.

Gaming enthusiasts can often suffer from musculoskeletal issues from sitting for a long period of time with poor posture causing pressure on the neck, shoulders and lower back. Many obsessive gamers also suffer from visual problems as a result of the constant strain on the eye whilst staring at a monitor screen. This has led to headaches, dizziness and vomiting.

Gaming is also associated with obesity as many people choose to play on the video games instead of joining in with a physical activity. Studies show a link between television and gaming and an increased Body Mass index. Results show that if you only spend 1 and a half hours watching television or playing online games than you are 75% less likely to be overweigh than gamers who spend over 1 and a half hours online.

Entrepreneurs have recognised and appreciated the negative stigma in terms of health and gaming and have therefore brought out games and technology that encourages the ‘user’ to move and become more active.

So has there been a change in how the world of gaming is perceived?

The Wii Fit was introduced in 2008 and as of 2012 it was the third bestselling console. The game uses a balance board which the player stands on whilst ‘playing’. Using a Wii fit means that you can take part in yoga, aerobics, and strength and balance games. The game has been advertised as a way helping families to exercise together; it has also been adopted for use in physiotherapy rehabilitation centres around the world.

For other Wii programmes you can use a controller to play tennis against a partner or to run in an online Olympics. The products all have the unique selling point of movement with the idea of getting people up off the sofa, standing and exercising in a fun interactive way.

There has been a recent madness surrounding the app game ‘Pokemon Go’ which has emphasised that there is a place in the modern world for exer-gaming. Although Pokemon is a children’s cartoon television series the app ‘Pokemon Go’ is currently being played by people of all ages potentially highlighting that there is a move from the use of the traditional health and fitness environment, in a gym or playing sport, towards a virtual world of fitness.

As well as being an interactive app for use on a phone or ipad, Pokemon Go users are now par taking in a physical activity that means they are outside and moving (exercising). One user who has now completed the entire game walked 152 kilometers to catch the Pokemon.

Pokemon go and other sport and health and wellbeing related apps being used by gamers will have a more positive effect on health compared with sitting indoors playing on a console whilst staring at a monitor screen.

However one of the most fundamental and constructive part of playing a sport or going to the gym is the social gains that are achieved. The stress free environment to develop both yourself and lifelong friendships, the importance for children, and adults, to ‘meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same, (Kipling, If, 1943) these skills are something that cannot be taught but that are developed through sport and social interaction with people.

Will the future population be content and full of rounded interesting people if sole exer’gaming only leads to a virtual online relationship with apps, electronic devises and data?