Pokémon GO! is sweeping the nation as it is released in the UK today, but children are not the only ones giving it a try. Could it help motivate those of us who really struggle to find exercise enjoyable to get outside and start walking?
Admittedly, this is not the post I was expecting to write today for ADHD Mum of Three, as a respectable and responsible 36 year old mother surely I should be groaning at the thought of another app that is going to drain the hours out of the lives of my children, and let’s be honest, my life too.
I am a gamer, I always have been, it gets my brain working, I get drawn in and time disappears. We call games ‘time vampires’ in our house, and I was in two minds as to whether or not to download Pokémon GO or not as I was a huge fan of Pokémon games when they first came out in the 1990’s.
However, I have been trying to get more exercise recently, I joined Weight Watchers a little while ago and exercise is one of the things that is really promoted. I did well over the first two or three weeks, I bought a fitbit, just the little zip one, and I started going on walks in parks and countryside nearby. I was excited to get my first badges awarded on fitbit, and it helped my weight loss, but alas, my motivation started to fade.
It was just a bit too boring to be honest, I had a couple of particular places to walk but even on a sunny day I was finding it more of a frustration to drive there, walk the same route and see the same trees and flowers. I need something more, I’m terrible at appreciating natural beauty. It takes less than two minutes looking at a sunset or at beautifully landscaped gardens before my brain thinks ‘done that, what next…’. I’m a nightmare in museums!
So, would Pokémon GO be a possible answer to my problems?
Why Bother To Exercise?
First lets back up a little, just how important is exercise anyway?
Obviously I’m dieting and exercise is encouraged for weight loss, but it’s much bigger than that. There are obvious health benefits to being able to walk the kids to school without needing a rest halfway back home, general fitness can only be a good thing, and I’m in no danger at the moment of becoming obsessively fitness mad. (Trust me, there have been plenty of opportunities whereby my obsessive nature could have taken over but my ADHD longevity issues have always knocked those on the head!)
More importantly studies have shown that exercise, diet and sleep are three key factors that encourage good brain development, and if there’s one thing all of us with ADHD need, is a little extra help in the brain development area.
I find my thoughts to be much clearer after a good walk, it doesn’t need to be a mammoth gym session or a 20 mile bike ride to get my blood flowing and my brain sparking. In fact my motivation for getting started on other tasks is awakened to the point where after an hour walking this morning I am now writing this post instead of sitting watching Netflix.
back to Pokémon GO
Yes, as I stated earlier, I walked for an hour this morning, actually it was an hour and thirteen minutes according to my fitbit and I am nearly at 10,000 steps already which is awesome as most days I struggle to hit the recommended 6,000 per day.
It is an intriguing concept, free to download which surprised me although you can buy extra pokéballs, power ups and lures for real money so something I need to keep an eye on. You literally catch your first Pokémon close to wherever you are when you first play, and like the early games you pick from three Pokémon.
To get more you need to go for a walk, the screen shows you on the map and you’ll see Poké Stops and Gyms on the horizon which are things you’ll use a little later in the game, but down at the bottom right of the screen you’ll see a little picture to click which shows you how close you are to other Pokémon. If there are three footprints by the image then it’s quite far away, it goes down to no footprints when you’re right next to it and you’ll see it on the map. You can see little rustling leaves on the map where there might be a Pokemon and you basically walk towards them.
When you get within range of a Pokémon you try to catch it with a Pokéball by flicking the ball towards it, some are harder to catch than others – I’m looking at you, Meowth! The Augmented Reality is supposed to show you the Pokémon sitting in the ‘real world’ using your camera but for some reason that isn’t working for me. No matter though, I can turn it off and see the cartoon version to catch it, but hopefully that’ll be fixed soon.
Once you’ve caught your Pokémon you go and find another one, it’s that simple. When you hit level 5 you can challenge a Gym and try to beat a powerful Pokemon etc. but that’s more detail than I need to go into here. The gameplay isn’t really what is important in this context, what it did for me was give me a reason to get outside and walk. I didn’t have to get in a car to get to a specific location, I didn’t really mind what the scenery was like, and I found myself wanting to walk a little bit further to chase down a specific Pokémon.
What are the dangers of Pokemon GO?
Right, it all sounds good in theory. It’s going to encourage me, and possibly my kids, to get up off the sofa and go outside into the fresh air. I’m already thinking about going out again. However, is this just novelty value? Is it really going to be able to keep my interest for more than a few weeks?
A lot will depend on whether the developers can keep the app innovative enough, there are plenty of Pokemon to catch and so far they’ve only released 250 Pokemon out of the 700+ Pokemon that are in the games so they can leak those in slowly. It’s going to be interesting watching what they do next, and how quickly we will see the game being copied by other companies.
The main danger for me is the amount of time I’m going to spend walking around when I should be tidying the house, writing blog posts, picking children up, cooking dinner… etc. It’s a good job I can use my time-blocking sheet to schedule in some guilt free Pokemon catching whilst still tackling my other commitments!
The biggest danger to anyone using Pokemon GO is apparent in the stories of accidents that have been reported in the media. One report today was that someone had driven into a tree because he was looking at his phone for Pokémon, a lot of people are reporting children wandering into roads, people’s gardens or simply walking too far from home whilst trying to catch a particular Pokémon. The reports say children but you can count adults with ADHD to that as I found it really absorbed my attention.
I set out completely determined to only glance at the phone every now and then but within half an hour I’d crossed a little cul-de-sac road without looking. Not good. If you’re going Pokémon hunting, I recommend you go with a partner, friend or with your children and that one of you is definitely not looking at a screen. I can see a lot more accidents coming over the next few weeks so please, don’t be among them.
In summary – Is Pokemon GO the answer to your exercise motivation problems?
Maybe, for a short time, yes. I know there will be lots of people like me who will really enjoy it and they will definitely feel the benefit of improving their fitness, getting rid of the brain fog for a little while has got to be a good thing. Will the novelty wear off? Probably, but you know what, enjoy it while it lasts – but stay safe!
Over to you
Have you tried it yet? Have you got any other tips to make exercising more fun? Let me know in the comments, or contact me here!