Pokemon Go could help combat type 2 diabetes, researchers say

John Murphy, MDLinx | July 28, 2016

Pokémon Go players may have more at stake than just throwing the perfect Poké Ball at virtual monsters. Players with type 2 diabetes could also be fighting off real obesity and chronic disease, say diabetes researchers.

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Pokémon Go makes players walk, fending off obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Pokémon Go requires a fair amount of walking—perhaps “an innovative solution” to rising obesity levels. (Photo: © Niantic, Inc.)

The new interactive app has become a worldwide phenomenon. To play Pokémon Go, players use a smartphone or mobile device to roam around in the real world to find and capture Pokémon monsters. These virtual critters appear on the screen as if in real-life settings—on a sidewalk, at a bus stop, or in a supermarket shopping cart, for instance.

USA Today noted that the game has “encouraged a mass public-walking binge by millions.”

“If there is something out there which is getting people off the sofa and pounding the streets, then this game could be an innovative solution for rising obesity levels,” said Tom Yates, PhD, MSc, a Reader (Associate Professor) in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Health at the University of Leicester’s Diabetes Centre, in Leicester, UK.

In a study published November 2015 in Diabetes Care, Dr. Yates and colleagues reported that breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with 5-minunte bouts of light-intensity activity (such as walking) every 30 minutes reduced levels of postprandial glucose, insulin, and nonesterified fatty acids in women at high risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Recent figures suggest 5 million people in England are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is largely associated with physical inactivity [and] obesity,” Dr. Yates said. Obesity is the most potent risk factor for type 2 diabetes and accounts for 80% to 85% of the overall risk of developing the condition, he noted.

Nick Johnson of Brooklyn, NY, was the first person to announce he had collected every Pokémon in the U.S. version of the game—a feat that required walking an average of 8 miles per day.

“I feel great,” Johnson told USA Today. “I was getting a lot of rest and exercise and meeting new people. I’m a lot healthier—I think I lost about 8 to 10 pounds.”

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