Since I wrote my extensive review last week, I am pleased to say that the majority of the world’s population appears to agree with me and have realised that outside of its nostalgic and social appeal, Pokémon GO is a pretty shallow and uninteresting game.

Yeah right!

Pokémon fever has only tightened its grip on the global populace. Now officially released in all of its buggy, unfinished glory, Pokémon GO’s statistics are impressive. The game has been downloaded 30 million times across various devices, boasts 26 million daily active users in 26 countries, and has generated $35 million in revenue.

pokemon ball

Here in the UK, 24% of adults are medically obese, with another 36% being overweight. This means that 60% of us could do with shedding a few pounds, and a quarter of adults are running the risk of serious health problems related to their weight.

Government statistics also show that 22% of children aged 4-5 are considered at least overweight, with the proportion rising to 33% for 10-11 year olds.

With a third of children being overweight before they’ve reached their teenage years, and nearly two thirds of adults, it is clear the UK needs a way to motivate its populace to get some exercise. OK, we probably need to take a look at our diets as well, but I can only do so much.

Standing on scalesI’m just one man, people!

Anyway, you may be wondering why the heck I am writing about Pokémon GO and obesity in the same introduction. Well, my friends, one thing that Pokémon GO does have going for it that even my cynical mind could not deny is that it does appear to be getting people outside their houses and walking. One player who wears a pedometer, reported than he quadrupled the number of steps he would have normally made.

So does this mean that Pokémon GO could be the answer to the obesity epidemic? Well, yes, it quite possibly could be. Although it does seems likely that the reduced number of heart attacks could be offset by an increase in walking-into-things-related injuries, but let’s just tackle one thing at a time.

It seems that augmented reality (AR) gaming, such as that employed by Pokémon Go, could be a useful way to make exercise seem more like fun and less like, well, exercise.

Ball Strike

You may think that you need an elaborate set up involving an Xbox Kinect in order to enjoy AR gaming in your own home, but this is not necessarily the case. New technology means that your humble webcam can detect movement in much the same way as a Kinect, and the first game to leverage this new tech is the relatively simple Ball Strike.

In Ball Strike, you stand in front of the camera where you see your image on the screen, and try to punch and kick various balls as they fly at you from either side. The game starts out slow and plodding but becomes far more rapid and intense as the difficulty levels rise.

Ball Strike tracks your stats and gives you feedback on your score, how many balls you missed, how many calories you have burned and more.

A fun little game to work out with in your own home, Ball Strike is available on iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Windows 8. However, the same game may get old after a while so it shall remain to be seen what other software comes out that utilises the technology.

If Ball Strike seems a bit obviously fitness related for you then you might enjoy our next entry.

SpecTrek

Now, this is more like it. SpecTrek is an augmented reality game more in line with Pokémon GO, except this time it’s ghosts rather than pocket monsters that we are hunting.

You walk or run around your neighbourhood and use you phone’s GPS and camera to search for spooks in the environment. On top of capturing ghosts, SpecTrek tracks statistics and gives awards and achievements for your progress.

So, if Pokémon isn’t to your taste, but you are hungry for a similar experience, to get you out and about then SpecTrek may be the game for you.

Ingress

Ingress is Niantic Games’ predecessor to Pokémon GO and you will find much of the same experience here. The main difference is that Ingress has no creatures to collect and has a much more po-faced and serious visual and narrative style to it.

Like in Pokémon GO, you farm loot from various landmarks, and capture portals around your environment (analogous to Pokémon GO’s gyms) in order to build up your team’s influence over your city. The more landmarks your team controls, the stronger you become.

If you’ve already become hooked to Pokémon GO then you probably won’t find anything in Ingress that will pull you away. However, if you want something a bit more serious and ‘grown-up’ to get you walking, then Ingress may be just the ticket.

Zombies! Run

Probably my favourite game on this list. Zombies! Run is an augmented reality fitness app with a difference. This time the part of your reality that is augmented is not your visual field, but your aural perception.

Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, Zombies! Run casts you as a Runner. In this world, Runners are special individuals empowered with a cardio-vascular fortitude that makes them ideal for supply runs and rescue missions.

So, before you head out for a jog, you put your headphones in and start up the application. There you choose from one of 200 missions, and hit go. The mission is delivered through your headphones, as well as the soundtrack.

At some point you’ll be set upon by the undead and the pace will quicken. These zombie chases actually feel really intense and you can feel your heart pounding as you attempt to outrun the horde. Once you reach your destination, you collect supplies and equipment to rebuild your home base.

The game has an award-winning story that is delivered to you as you progress, and it is this great narrative that will keep you coming back for more, time and time again. The story is genuinely really well written and engaging, and any fans of the zombie genre should find it enjoyable.

1 million players make it the biggest smartphone fitness game ever, and you can share your progress with other users, and compare yourself via the leaderboards. You can also create your own missions, if you somehow manage to get through the 200 pre-loaded ones. Zombies! Run also puts on large virtual race community events from time to time, in order to further strengthen the social aspect of the game.

The game is at its best when played outdoors, but can also be used at home or at the gym as well. Zombies! Run also has settings for running, jogging or walking, so you can set the pace.

If that wasn’t enough, Zombies! Run also has a separate training app called 5K Training. Designed for beginners who want to get their cardio up, 5K Training will get you to a level of fitness that will allow you to get the most out of the main game.

In my opinion Zombies! Run strikes the right balance between game (well, more of an interactive storybook, but you get my meaning) and fitness app. However, much of the fitness aspect of Pokémon GO is an incidental side effect of people wanting to ‘catch them all.’ Zombies! Run by comparison is very much a fitness app, and may not appeal to people who aren’t specifically looking to get fit.

Conclusion

There are lots of options out there for people who are looking to get some exercise. You can join a gym, a local running club, or you can find a ton of aerobic videos on YouTube. For those of us who need a bit more of a push to get us up and about however, there are games. Since the advent of the Nintendo Wii, games makers have been trying to come up with new and innovative ways to get us out of our chairs and moving. Pokémon Go seems to have achieved this goal, and in the best way possible – people don’t even realise that’s what they’re doing.

If Pokémon GO isn’t for you then maybe you can find something to appeal in the list above. On the other hand, maybe you have discovered a game that is even better at getting you moving that any of these, or Pokémon GO for that matter. Or maybe you think that this is all a load of new-fangled twaddle and nothing beats getting your exercise the old fashioned way.

Whatever you think we’d love to hear about your experiences, so please head down to the comments below and tells us your opinion.

Have (healthy) fun.

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Gary’s academic background is in psychology and research, but he has always been drawn to the world of technology. From games consoles to smartphones, he finds himself drawn to most things with a microchip. Never missing an opportunity to stick the boot into shady practices and pseudoscience, Gary understands that tough love is often the most sincere form that there is



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Pokémon GO: Is Augmented Reality Gaming the Answer to Obesity?

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