As you're probably aware I've been busying myself over these last few months with all things to do with stand up paddle boards and mountain trekking. With this being the case, I have completely missed the phenomenon that is: Pokemon Go, a mobile phone application/game that sees the player wander around the streets finding and capturing Pokemon characters. Being that I was an 80's born child then I'm aware of what Pokemon is even though at the time I barely took any notice. Being of University age, I had other things on my mind then cartoon characters! However, I'm not completely out of touch to know that this new game has swept the world like wild fire. There are stories of people so transfixed with the game that they are putting themselves or others in dangerous situations. The extreme ones include a man who almost stood onto a live railway line but realised before it was too late; and, a couple in America who left a toddler home alone whilst they went driving around the local neighbourhood in search of Pokemon characters. Thankfully these stories are the extreme and are few and far between with the vast majority of people playing with an awareness of what is around them. As with a lot of new trends or fads I was quick to dismiss the idea and barely gave it a second thought. However, I was sat in a pub earlier this evening chatting to a friend (who is somewhat obsessed with the game) about the positives that it can have. Some of what he said actually did make sense and did give me food for thought.
"...childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st Century..."
In July, I took part in an expedition to stand up paddle board from Bristol to London to raise funds for the Youth Adventure Trust and to help develop Explorers Connect founder Belinda Kirk's initiative to create a dedicated day of adventure once a year, aptly named: 'Wild Night Out'. The idea behind this initiative is to encourage as many people as possible, adults and children alike, to turn off there electronic devices (whether that is TV, smart phone, tablet etc...) and to explore the great outdoors. It could be a new walking route, a wild swim or just a camp out in the back garden, anything that involved getting out and about and, hopefully, re-discovering the local area.
During the preparation for the paddle board expedition we were astonished to hear that those numbers who actually spend time exploring the great outdoors had dropped drastically over the past couple of decades. When I was a child we used to play from dawn until dusk whether that was climbing trees, exploring new areas of the village/town, building dens and general exploration and adventure on a local scale. It saddened me to hear that fewer children are doing the same and are choosing to consume content on digital media platforms instead of making use of what is around them. This is leading to more and more children battling weight issues than ever before. The World Health Organisation 'regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. Obese children and adolescents are at an increased risk of developing various health problems, and are also more likely to become obese adults'. This can only really be put down to our somewhat sedentary lifestyle and our addiction to the digital world.
The only way to reverse these obesity figures is to encourage more and more people to ditch this sedentary lifestyle and to encourage activity and fitness. I hadn't realised before but games like Pokemon Go may actually help to achieve this, The whole essence of what the game is about is to get the player to explore the world around them by searching and capturing Pokemon characters. It does this by mixing the virtual and the real world. It encourages players to walk many miles in order to incubate new Pokemon and challenges them to go further to find rarer breeds. On top of this, it is encouraging a social aspect as people arrange to meet up in groups to search for Pokemon characters together, thus encouraging social relations and group exercise. It may only be scratching the surface of what is now seen as an obesity epidemic but it is a start. This maybe the small step that people need in order to get active, lose some weight and become fitter. If by playing a mobile phone game can help an individual realise that by keeping active can have a positive affect on the body and mind then it may spur on future positive changes. We didn't get into an obesity crisis overnight and there is going to be no quick fix. If we can find small steps in the right direction, even in the most unusual places, then that has to be a positive. An active body is a happy body. So, the next time you see someone walking around the streets holding there mobile phone aloft in front of them, don't judge, see it as a positive (yet small step) to making the nation fitter and hopefully, in the long term, reducing the obesity rate the world over.