Why the hate-on for Pokemon Go? It's making people healthy

Many people love to hate Pokemon. The game may have some downsides, but it also offers a huge benefit: it's getting people outside and exercising.

The mobile game is forcing players to get outside and exercise

Pokemon Go player and physical activity researcher, Angela Fong applauds the game for encouraging people to be active. (Angela Fong)

Pokemon Go has inspired legions of haters who can't quite make sense of the augmented reality game.

A photo making the rounds on social media shows a Vancouver lawn sign warning Pokemon Go players not to trespass. It also declares the trend is more stupid than trickle-down economics or the Hammer pants fashion craze of the early '90s.

This anti-Pokemon lawn sign has gone viral on social media. (Imgur)

Examples of the Twitter rage include: "I HATE Pokemon Go so much" and "If you're over 12yrs old and you play Pokemon go regularly, you are a loser."

The game has also gotten a lot of flack for listing private properties as Pokemon destinations — hence the nasty lawn sign — and for causing injuries. When using your cellphone to chase fictional monsters around town, you need to watch your step.

But something very positive is also going on that should be acknowledged. Pokemon Go — which launched in Canada in mid-July — encourages people to get outside and exercise. 

Children are emerging from basement rec rooms where they were whiling away countless hours playing shoot-em-up video games.

Adults who spend their days parked behind a computer are now spending their evenings outdoors, rediscovering their city.

"The Pokemon are kind of placed all over the city," explained Angela Fong, physical activity researcher and PhD candidate for exercise sciences at the University of Toronto.

"In order to get the good ones or get a lot of them, you need to get off your butt and walk outside."

She says players also have to hoof it if they want to hatch eggs — another important part of the game. 

To hunt down Pokemon, you have to get outside and move it. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Fong applauds Pokemon Go for pushing people to be active during an era of rising obesity rates and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

She's an avid player and says the game motivates her to walk about an extra seven kilometres a week — without even noticing. Because you're playing a fun game, she explains, "It makes people forget that they're actually getting physical activity."

The trick appears to be working. Sixty per cent of American millennials surveyed in a new Manulife poll said playing the game has upped their activity levels.

Pokemon weight loss

The game definitely got Roberto Vazquez moving.

He says he walked about 260 kilometres over 3½ weeks to capture Pokemon. He lost 25 pounds.

The 24-year-old Toronto photographer was so focused on catching all 142 monsters, he says he didn't even notice he was shedding pounds.

"You're having so much fun running around, meeting people that the last thing you're thinking about is losing weight," he said.

Roberto Vazquez before and after he lost 25 pounds playing Pokemon Go. (Roberto Vazquez Photography)

After a friend made a comment about his smaller appearance, Vazquez decided to step on a scale. "I was really amazed."

He says even though he's now caught all Pokemon currently available in North America, he's committed to a healthy lifestyle and plans to join a gym.

"When you see results, it gets me more motivated."

Overcoming pain with Pokemon

Daniel McDonald of New Westminster, B.C., says Pokemon also got him moving, which isn't always easy. The 25-year-old suffers from fibromyalgia.

McDonald says walking is an important part of his therapy, yet it's difficult because his condition causes him chronic pain. But after discovering Pokemon Go, he says he managed to walk 50 kilometres in three weeks.

"It just sort of distracted me. I'm not going out because I have to and I have to push through the pain. I'm going out because I want to catch some Pokemon."

Daniel McDonald in New Westminster, B.C., suffers from chronic pain but says Pokemon Go gets him moving. (Daniel McDonald)

The game is also having a positive effect on kids. Days after Pokemon Go launched, Anna Cormier told CBC News in Fredericton that she had been out every day playing it with her two children. She says her son Cameron used to be reluctant to get active with her.

"Going for walks with him was hard. Any mention of the mall or going shopping, there was huge fights and hissy fits. Now I just tell him we're going to go catch some Pokemon. It's 100 per cent better."

Anna Cormier in Fredericton says Pokemon Go encourages her son to be active. (Stephanie Sirois/CBC)

But amidst all the happy Pokemon Go stories lurks a lot of hate. 

McDonald says trolls join Pokemon groups on social media just to "call people out and tell them what losers they are." He sent CBC News examples of comments, including one that informs adult male players they need to turn in their "man card."

An anti-Pokemon Go message making the rounds on social media. (Dorkly)

The game isn't above legitimate criticism, be it about safety or property rights, for example. But let's not forget it also has a huge plus-side: it encourages people to get outside and move — no small feat in the digital age. 


Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Based in Toronto, Sophia Harris covers consumer and business for CBC News web, radio and TV. She previously worked as a CBC videojournalist in the Maritimes where she won at Atlantic Journalism Award for her work. Contact:


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