A group of Microsoft researchers has crunched the numbers and believes that players of the Pokemon Go mobile game have not only become more active, they may also end up with a slightly longer life expectancy.
In Brief: Pokemon Go
To quickly explain: Pokemon Go is a mobile game that was extremely popular during the summer. Players would move around to real-world locations and use their phone’s camera to find and capture various virtual creatures.
How the Study Worked
In order for the study to be carried out, the Microsoft team needed to know lifestyle and physical activity data for people who played and did not play Pokemon Go. They accomplished this through the power of Big Data.
Microsoft measured physical activity in the form of steps taken, which is information they obtained from wearable trackers like the Microsoft Band as well as various other health and fitness trackers. Pokemon Go players were identified by their search history on Bing. If a person made what were deemed Pokemon Go-related search queries, they were considered a player and the number of such queries was also recorded. Step data was taken from up to 30 days before the first Pokemon Go query and was tracked for up to a month afterwards.
The data suggests that, prior to playing, Pokemon Go users took a fewer number of daily steps compared to the control group. Once they started playing the game, however, this changed. Players moved at least an extra 194 steps per day once they started, and this number only went up as they became more engaged. Players who made 10 or more Pokemon Go searches, for example, saw an average daily step increase of 1479 (26% increase). The lifestyle improvements were even seen among obese or overweight individuals. Those who were categorized as “highly engaged” (10+ searches) were also about three times as likely to meet official activity guidelines once they began playing.
Collectively, the Microsoft researchers calculated that Pokemon Go added a total of 144 billion steps to American activity. For context, this is the equivalent of 2,724 strolls around the globe or 143 round-trips to the moon. Fitbit only wishes it could have that kind of result.
Where Does the Longer Lifespan Come In?
The whole deal about Pokemon Go leading to a longer life has to do with a study from 2015 that suggested walking an extra 1,000 steps per day could extend a person’s life expectancy by 41.4 days. The implication, then, is that the most engaged Pokemon Go players may end up living longer if they are able to maintain their physical activity gains.
Whether or not this ends up happening (winter is coming and Pokemon Go’s player base has dropped somewhat since its launch period), the Microsoft study still provides useful information. For instance, it definitely proves that mobile games can help spur activity and that Pokemon Go, in particular, managed to get more than a few people to dramatically improve their walking habits—at least in the short term.
Althoff, T., et. al., “Influence of POkemon Go on Physical Activity: Study and Implications,” ArXiv, 2016; arXiv:1610.02085v1.
Dwyer, T., et. al., “Objectively Measured Daily Steps and Subsequent Long Term All-Cause Mortality: The Tasped Prospective Cohort Study,” PLOS One, 2015; http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141274.
“CNN: Pokemon Go users may have a longer life expectancy,” Local SYR web site, October 11, 2016; http://www.localsyr.com/news/cnn-pokemon-go-users-may-have-a-longer-life-expectancy, last accessed October 14, 2016.