How does Pokémon Go affect physical activity? SDSU researchers want to find out

by Camille Dejoras, Staff Writer

Researchers from San Diego State’s School of Public Health are investigating how the game Pokémon Go affects physical activity patterns in young adults.

Dr. Noe Crespo, the study’s principal investigator, said he and his team are in the initial stages of project, and are currently promoting and doing recruitment for the study using flyers and announcements.

“We’re interested in understanding what features of the game promote an increase in physical activity, primarily in the greater number of steps (students) take,” Crespo said.

Crespo said students will be randomly assigned to one of three observations groups. Students in each group will be required to maintain different levels of interactions with the game, ranging from low usage to extreme interaction.

“This would probably be the first study, that we know of, that would be a randomized controlled study to test whether or not Pokémon Go increases physical activity,” Crespo said.

The researchers are looking for participants who have never played Pokémon Go or who have never reached “level five” on the game. Potential participants must also be current, full-time undergraduate or graduate students between the ages of 18-25.

Alma Behar, a public health doctoral student and one the of co-investigators, said they are interested in recruiting people who are not already physically active.

“We want to see if playing the game increases some people’s activity rates,” Behar said.

She said potential subjects will need to fill out a survey to make sure they meet the study’s eligibility requirements. She said the team will officially contact and enroll 30 participants when the spring semester begins.

Crespo said students will receive $50 for completing the study. He said the team will also provide battery packs as compensation, as he said the game drains phone batteries fairly quickly.

Kiana Spencer, a public health master’s student at the University of Southern California, said her graduate program allows her work as a member of the study because the project has staff from both SDSU and USC.

“I’m really interested in physical activity, and I knew the study involved both exercise and Pokémon Go, which drew me to it because it’s unique,” Spencer said.

Spencer said her job includes contacting people and answering questions students have regarding what physical activity they can expect. She said she also plays a role in determining who is eligible to participate.

“It’s fun to see what kind of people are intrigued with Pokémon and talk to potential participants,” Spencer said. “I think a lot of people are attracted to this because this study is so uncommon.”

Behar said anyone who is interested in the study can contact the team at