Why Pokémon Go Does Not Count as Exercise

Pokémon Go is everywhere.  Well, not everywhere.  But if you’re any of the countries where it’s operating, Pokémon Go has overwhelmed pop culture.  People are filling parks, businesses, and street corners to search for Pokémon, to the extent that I can just skip over the “how to play” summary that I’d normally have to go through when discussing a game.  You already know how to play.  Even if you don’t play, your nephew, friend, or even boss explained the basics months ago.

The game has consumed my social circle. Gone is the lagging boredom where we all half-heartedly decide what to do.  Pokémon Go is a fantastic standby.  It’s a great way to meet people, plays on childhood nostalgia, and has even been promoted as a fun way to get some exercise.    And while it’s certainly better than sitting on the couch, I’m ready to voice the unpopular opinion that it is NOT exercise.

Your Walking Pace Matters

I know, I know, walking qualifies as physical activity.  While playing Pokémon Go, people are at least moving.  But not all movement counts as exercise.  We could all agree that walking from your car to the office isn’t exercise, just like folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher isn’t either.  So why are we all eager to say that Pokémon Go counts? Just because “walking” counts?

Yes, walking can count as exercise.  But only when you are walking briskly, enough for it to count as moderate intensityWhat is moderate intensity, then?  Well, there’s no clear-cut definition.  Different people have varying levels of fitness, so what can be stressful for one person could be a walk in the park for another. One commonly accepted indicator is being unable to sing while working out; another is light perspiration.  Basically, walking can definitely count as moderate exercise, but only if it still feels like a workout.  It’s not the easy solution some tout it to be.  You might be moving at a slower pace than running, but you still have to push yourself for it to count as exercise.

Which isn’t what usually happens during Pokémon hunting.  You wander around, walking leisurely, and hang out at lures or gyms.  Never once have I exerted myself during a Pokémon hunt, and I’ve only broken a sweat because it was 95 degrees outside.  Somehow, I’m having trouble visualizing any players monitoring their nutritional intake or physical performance to the level of athletesOf course there is a balance between couch potato and competitive athlete, but that middle ground is not Pokémon Go.   If you walked around town for an hour at a leisurely walking pace, that wouldn’t be exercise, just as eating an apple is not the same as eating a balanced diet.  It has certain health benefits, but it does not rise to the level of exercise.  If the only physical activity you do daily is Pokémon Go, you need to add something else. 

How to Make Pokémon Go Count

You certainly can turn Pokémon Go into a workout.  PumpUp already has.  You can play while on a run (good luck), or simply maintain a fast walk throughout your hunt.  But the game is not designed that way.  Some might be sore from walking around for a few hours, but unless you reached the threshold of moderate activity, Pokémon Go doesn’t count as exercise.  

I realize that this is bashing some people’s hopes.  Some people have difficulty finding an exercise regimen that they enjoy.  People have extensively lauded Pokémon Go as an exercise opportunity, because it’s the only thing that has motivated some people to go outside for a long time.  And that’s certainly a step in the right direction.  We just need those steps to be at a quicker pace. 

About the Author

Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun.  Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin.  She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.  Follow Dayton on Twitter @dkai117