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Pokémon GO: The Craze, Exercise and Safety

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Pokémon GO: The Craze, Exercise and Safety

A new app is getting people moving in a unique and fun way. Pokémon started as a video game and has now been turned into trading card games, animated television shows, movies, comic books and toys. Then, on July 6, the public witnessed the release of Pokémon GO. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an app that’s creating quite a movement.

According to the game’s website, users search for species of Pokémon in real world locations. It encourages you to get on your feet to go outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. The goal is for players to capture as many characters as possible. This craze is responsible for getting both adults and kids on the move.

U.S. News and World Report says it might just be the trend the United States needs in terms of exercise, especially with the growing problem of childhood obesity. UnityPoint Health bariatric surgeon, Steven Cahalan, M.D., explains just how serious childhood obesity is across the nation.

“Childhood obesity is a problem, which is increasing dramatically,” Dr. Cahalan says. “Anywhere from one out of five, to one out of three children is currently affected by obesity. Studies show that 75 percent of obese children become obese adults. Obesity is rapidly becoming the most prevalent health issue in U.S.”

While exercise isn’t the only contributing factor in childhood obesity, it certainly plays a part.

“Children become overweight and obese for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns or a combination of these factors. Obesity tends to cluster in certain families for these same reasons. Frequently, obese children have obese parents,” Dr. Cahalan says.

Pokémon GO isn’t the first video game to get people moving. The Wii came out with Wii Fit in 2007 encouraging family and friends to get into bowling, boxing and baseball. Making fitness fun is a great way to encourage health habits, without having to go to the gym.

Despite the health perks, there are safety concerns associated with the app. The media is reporting incidents of robbery and trespassing. If you, your children or your family is going to play, here are some important safety tips to keep in mind before you search for your next Pokémon:

  • Don’t go alone and to areas with which you’re not familiar, especially children (news sources have cited children being lured to unsafe places).
  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings – for example, don’t walk into the streets or objects because you’re focused on your phone.
  • Phones and driving don’t mix. No wild Pokémon catch is worth distracted driving.
  • Don’t go onto private property to find a Pokémon character. Trespassing is against the law.

If you are concerned about your child’s weight, if he/she is receiving the appropriate nutrition and exercise levels or his/her screen time, contact your UnityPoint Health pediatrician or primary care provider.