Pokémon GO is exercise, but if you’re interested in the scenery during a walk, you’re better off not playing the game at the same time.
WHEN POKEMON GO first took over, I resisted the urge to download the game. I didn’t want to become one of the folks running around a park with my head in my phone. Then a friend said the game made her walk a lot, and it was fun to play with her teenage son.
In the name of fitness, I will try anything, even Pokémon GO.
I downloaded the game, caught my first Pokémon at my dining-room table and realized I needed to leave my house. I put on sneakers and walked out to see what I could find.
There’s an entire world of Pokestops and Poke gyms visible only on the game. I followed the map to my first Pokestop. I picked up some Poke balls, used to catch Pokémon, and also lit an incense, which attracts wild Pokémon.
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When I saw my first Pokémon, I actually ran after it — and nearly got hit by a car crossing the street — before I realized I could click, and the Pokémon would appear in front of me. I threw some Poke balls and caught it.
As I walked around collecting balls, eggs and potions, and catching varieties of Pokémon, I realized I was deep into my neighborhood business district, outside my normal walking radius. Granted, that radius is generally six blocks from my house, but I had walked that far without noticing.
I also didn’t look around during my walk. It was a sunny, fall day, and my head was buried in my phone. I had to make myself look up when I crossed the street so I didn’t become Pokémon roadkill.
But I also followed the map down streets I’d never walked. After 45 minutes, I headed home. I was proud of my 3,000 or so steps, and felt done with catching Pokémon.
I was planning to go to yoga, but as I perused the app, I discovered if I walked two more kilometers, I could incubate an egg and get a surprise Pokémon.
I decided to head away from the busy neighborhood hub and toward a quiet park. I wanted to enjoy my walk and focus less on the game, but it was hard to ignore it in case a Pokémon popped up. I didn’t get many Pokémon, though, so I decided to head back to my business district to make it more exciting.
This time, I had caught enough Pokémon to do battle at a local gym, where players have their Pokémon fight each other. Standing on the street is not an ideal way to do battle; I also had no idea what I was doing and felt silly playing a video game on the street. I failed miserably at my first battle. I didn’t care.
I wandered around, waiting for the game to count down my last .2 km. The game can act as a tracker, counting how far you’ve gone. But I was tired. How long is this going to take?
Finally, my egg hatched. The resulting Pokémon was underwhelming — a caterpie, which I had caught earlier in the day.
Then I checked my steps. I had started the Pokémon experiment at 1,500 steps. Two hours later, I was at 9,800. Wow.
If you’re wondering whether you get exercise from Pokémon, the answer is yes. Do you enjoy your surroundings or take your eyes off your phone? Probably not.
But Pokémon will take you places you don’t know. If you don’t walk regularly, it’s a good motivator. For me, if I want to play the game, I’ll take a Poke walk. When I want exercise and fresh air, I’ll likely do it without hunting for Pokémon.