People 'n' Issues

This is how Pokemon Go is aligned to health goals

October 12th, 2016
Pokemon Go game has finally been launched in South Africa – offering possibilities in terms of encouraging fitness, particularly among the youth, as players take to walking or running in an effort to “catch em all”, writes DEBBIE VALENTINI of Agility Health.

The game uses a player’s physical location to reveal hidden Pokemons, which are animated fantasy animal characters, on the game’s map interface. Even before the game’s official release in South Africa, scores of players could already be seen walking around searching for nearby characters.

Pokemon Go’s potential for encouraging physical activity has piqued the interest of Zurreal, the health, wellbeing and financial services partner to all Resolution Health Medical Scheme members. At Zurreal we are all about rewarding members for healthy behaviours, and we support any development that may promote exercise.


Pokemon Go is a case in point because catching the game’s characters during daily workout activities, such as walking, running or even cycling, can make getting and staying in shape much more fun.

People have been making the most of their lunch breaks by going in search of Pokemon, and even a short, brisk lunchtime walk can contribute to fitness – especially when it becomes a regular part of one’s routine. Furthermore, incorporating regular exercise into your day can improve concentration and refocus the mind for improved productivity in the workplace.

One aspect of the game, which incorporates augmented reality technology, is that certain real-world locations serve as digital “Pokestops”, where players can collect bonus items that make the game easier.

One of the items that can be picked up is an egg that hatches after a player has walked a distance of 2km, 5km or 10km, revealing another character to be added to the player’s collection. Pokemon eggs are a great way to reward yourself if you have goals to cover a particular distance in your morning cardiac exercise.

Incubate a 5km egg at the start of your run, and you can be assured that you will be rewarded with a surprise Pokemon for your efforts at the end of it. Even better, the eggs with longer distance goals typically give better quality Pokemon.

As Zurreal, we appreciate the importance of rewards, but we know that people are sometimes tempted to ruin their healthy gains by rewarding themselves with unhealthy food treats or expensive luxuries when they meet their daily fitness goals. It should be remembered, however, that this could add feelings of guilt or stress, and counteract the benefits of the exercise.

The Zurreal Platinum rewards programme gives members up to R13 400 in cash back each year to incentivise regular exercise, taking care of their health, and participating in outdoor sporting events. These rewards are tallied up quarterly, and so Pokemon Go is a perfect complement to the Zurreal programme as it offers instant gratification.

Not only are players getting more exercise, Pokemon Go appears to be creating more opportunities for players to socialise in the real world. It may be something of a stereotype, but some young people who identify as gamers may be more comfortable interacting online than ‘irl’ – that is a gaming language acronym for ‘in real life’.

Pokemon Go players can load Pokemon ‘lures’ at Pokestops and everyone in the vicinity can benefit from these. For half an hour, more Pokemon spawn at that location than usual and players flock to these areas.

Real-world locations that are game attractions appear to be bringing Pokemon fans together, where they can connect with peers and discuss the game, strategies and other points of common interest. It is easy to spot fellow players and the game is an obvious conversation-starter, making social interaction less stressful for reserved individuals.

We would, however, like to remind players to exercise due caution and consider ‘stranger danger’ when engaging with any new acquaintances or before rushing off to a Pokestop that is ‘luring’ Pokemon.

We have heard reports in other countries of criminals using these digital lures to catch victims rather than Pokemon. Criminals may set lures at Pokestops in poorly lit, lonely areas, for example, and attack unsuspecting fans that show up to catch the Pokemon characters. Remember that the mobile phones the game is played on often have significant value, which makes this an attractive scheme for criminals.

It is important that players make smart decisions and stay vigilant to avoid becoming a target. By following a few simple safety tips and avoiding ‘stranger danger’, the game can be safe and fun while simultaneously encouraging fitness.

Tips for staying safe while playing Pokemon Go:

  • Never visit Pokestops after dark, in poorly lit or unsecure areas. Rather stick to busy, well-lit areas and do not go alone.
  • Do not exchange personal information with strangers
  • Do not leave open, public areas with a stranger to go somewhere else – staying in well populated locations can make is more difficult for criminals to target you.
  • Do not provide lifts to anyone you just met.
  • Remember that all the normal rules apply to making new friends while playing Pokemon Go. Although it can feel like you share a deep connection through your love of the game, fellow players may have more sinister motives, such as trying to “catch” you or your valuables.
  • If a situation feels unsafe – trust your instincts and leave. If you are alone, call a family member or nearby friend, let them know where you are and that you feel unsafe. Tell them where you are planning to go and how you are planning to get there. Head for the nearest busy public place, and if the stranger is not following you, head home or to another safe locate.

* Debbie Valentini, GM of Marketing, Communications and Rewards at Agility Health

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