One Big Lesson We Should All Learn From Pokémon Go

Fact: Exercise doesn’t have to be the absolute worst. 

Photo by Brian Thomas

Photo by Brian Thomas

Pokémon Go is to the month of July 2016 what Paris Hilton was to the year 2006: You can’t venture onto the internet without being confronted with news — much of it entirely pointless — concerning it. And as much as you don’t want to be intrigued by its existence, you probably are. Because there must be a reason people are so obsessed, right?

Clearly, I am not one of the people who gets it. That said, I do think that, probably unlike Paris Hilton, there is one big fitness-related life lesson we can, and should, all learn from the game.

Last week, after Pokémon Go launched, the folks behind the fitness tracker Jawbone UP noted that their users who were playing Pokémon Go had logged 62.5 percent more steps the weekend of the launch than they did on a normal weekend. Twitter also blew up that weekend with tons of users creating LOL-worthy memes about all the accidental exercise they were getting as a result of playing Pokémon Go, like this one:

This got me thinking about how, by disguising exercise as simply a fun activity — never even dropping the E-word — the folks behind Pokémon Go, intentionally or not, were able to do what the government and physical education teachers across the country have been trying to do for years: Get people moving.

For so many people, the word exercise is synonymous with punishment. I can’t be the only girl who faked period cramps in high school to get out of doing my daily dose of not-at-all-fun — grueling, rather — sprints in my high school’s basement basketball court. But the thing is, as Pokémon Go proves, exercise doesn’t have to resemble your nightmarish flashbacks of suicides done across dully lit basement gyms in your youth. Exercise doesn’t have to look like a Spin class or a group run or time spent in a CrossFit box. Exercise just looks like physical activity, whether that’s running around the city to catch ALL the freakin’ Pokémon you can, or biking as fast as you can from pop-up beer garden to pop-up beer garden on a Saturday (imbibing responsibly, of course), or dancing your ass of for hours on end during Drake Night at the Dolphin (Yes, that really is a thing. And yes, it IS amazing). All of those activities ARE exercise, whether you call them that or not.

So, the lesson we should all learn from Pokémon Go: Exercise doesn’t need to feel like punishment — or even look like typical exercise. You can have fun while also, coincidentally, getting your sweat on. And if Pokémon Go’s success is any indication, maybe selling exercise to ourselves in this way is the key to getting more of it.

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