Smartphones have been integrated into our society and are expected to serve as tools to improve health outcomes. In the summer of 2016, Pokémon GO, a location-based augmented reality game for smartphones was released; it attracted attention from the perspective of health, especially with its potential to increase physical activity (PA). A few studies have compared objectively measured step counts before and after the release of the game; however, they were conducted over a short study period and evaluated only young people.
The objective of this study was to confirm whether there was a difference in step counts between middle-aged and elderly players and nonplayers before and after the release of Pokémon GO.
A total of 46 players and 184 nonplayers aged ≥40 years were matched for sex, age group, and PA level; they were respondents to a questionnaire randomly sent to citizens who were given free pedometers by Yokohama city. Their play status was identified through the questionnaire. To investigate the change in step counts before and after the release of Pokémon GO according to play status, a 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed. Step counts 1 month before the release of the game were compared with those 8 months after the release. In addition, subgroup analyses according to sex, age group, PA level, and subjective health status were performed.
The mean ages of players and nonplayers were 56.5 (SD 9.9) years and 57.3 (SD 9.6) years, respectively, and the mean baseline step counts of players and nonplayers were 7641.8 (SD 2754.5) and 7903.3 (SD 2674.7), respectively. There was no significant difference in the age and baseline step counts according to a t test (2-tailed). In the analysis of all samples, the interaction between play status and time effect was significant for 3 of 8 months after release. In the subgroup analyses, the interaction was significant for 3 months in men, 7 months in the 55-64-year-old group, 2 months in workers, 4 months in the active group in PA level, and 2 months in participants with subjectively good health. The interaction was significant for only 1 month, at most, in other subgroups.
The present study confirmed a difference in step counts between players and nonplayers before and after the release of Pokémon GO. According to our analysis, step counts were higher until 7 months after the release. The player group maintained their step counts in winter, despite the decrease in step counts of nonplayers. In subgroup analyses, players were more likely to be men, aged <55 years, workers, active, and subjectively in good health.