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How Pokemon Go took over my life – and made it better

Yes, Pokémon Go’s initial – almost hysterical – surge in popularity has faded. America’s streets are filled with less and less zombie-like gamers who keep their eyes on their smartphone screens as they wander the real world in search of digital creatures.

But I’m still one of them. I play every day. Probably too much. I play it on my bus ride to work, at my desk and – much to his chagrin – when my husband is trying to get my attention.

Right now, I’m just short of level 29. Since downloading the app on July 6th, I’ve registered 117 types of Pokémon in my Pokédex — the encyclopedia of creatures that players seek buffs by listing “all of them.” to catch”. .” I’ve caught a total of 3,558 Pokémon and visited Pokéstops, places that give out free in-game items and points for leveling up, 7,381 times. And I’ve won 700+ gym fights where three rival teams fight for control. (I’m on Team Valor in case you’re wondering.)

(See also: Pokemon Go and the Lifespan of Fads in the Internet Age)

But my obsession with Pokémon Go isn’t just a product of my compulsive personality. That’s because Pokémon Go is the only app that was able to entice me into exercising.

To understand why this is a big deal, you have to know that I hate sports. Sure, I love hiking, and I stuck with aerial silks, a type of acrobatics where you climb long lengths of fabric to swing and whizz through the air, for a year because they offered me rewards like beautiful scenery or a new high-flying trick specify. But things like running or weightlifting always felt like a chore to me. And while I’ve considered fitness-only apps in the past, they’ve seemed more intimidating than empowering.

My lazy lifestyle wasn’t a problem for a long time as I had a fast metabolism. But now that I’m approaching 30, things have changed a bit — and some clothes I’ve kept in rotations since high school have become too tight to wear.

So for over two months I’ve been sneaking out of my house at 5am almost every morning and capturing digital critters while listening to podcasts before most of my neighbors are up or the sun is peeking over the horizon.

Nostalgia is definitely a factor here. I’m part of the Gameboy generation and have spent countless hours slogging through Kanto and Johto. But the real motivation is that, like wander or aerial silk, Pokemon Go offers me a carrot instead of a whip. I don’t just gamble out of vanity or concerns about the health effects of my sedentary lifestyle — I keep playing because the experience is enough to take my mind off the fact that I hate sweating.

(See also: Pokemon Go Reaches New Milestone: Over 500 Million Downloads Across Platforms)

And that’s no coincidence: one of the goals of Pokémon Go developer Niantic was to build a gamified fitness app. In an interview with Business Insider, Niantic CEO John Hanke said the game is designed to use catching Pokémon as an incentive to get users moving, as opposed to fitness apps that make you feel like it of being “a failed Olympic athlete” by pressuring you to meet daily goals.

And Pokémon Go’s core mechanic – walking around – is good for you. According to Harvard Medical School’s Walking for Health report, walking for just two and a half hours a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 percent and reduce your risk of diabetes and cancer. And Pokémon Go’s ability to get people outside has been praised by some medical professionals, as exercise is also good for mental health.

Niantic’s plan clearly worked for me. The app says I’ve walked more than 250 miles with the door open so far — although, in the interest of full disclosure, traffic in the District of Columbia can get so bad it sometimes mistakes my bus route for walking.

Sure, my daily walks aren’t the most rigorous exercise schedule. And my weight hasn’t changed much — but I can now squeeze into one of my favorite high school dresses again.

© 2016 The Washington Post

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