Can Pokémon Go change the health sphere?

Fitness, Technology, Uncategorized

 

“Oh my goodness, there’s a Pikachu nearby!”

“Excuse me, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you catch that jigglypuff?”

“NOT ANOTHER SILLY ZUBAT!”

 

You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen scores of strangers playing it on the streets; perhaps you yourself are a budding Pokémon master. There’s no doubt that Pokémon Go has truly taken the world by storm, transforming the old and young alike into avid adventurers and uniting total strangers in their quest to “catch ‘em all”.

 

Naturally, some critics have accused the game of essentially ‘turning multitudes of people into walking zombies’, heads down and clutching phones in chase of imaginary creatures. But amidst stories of players walking into poles, near-misses with vehicles and even accidently discovering dead bodies, comes an enormous potential for augmented reality games – such as Pokémon Go – to positively influence gaming in a world where obesity and sedentary lifestyles are on the rise. Perhaps most interestingly, the benefits of augmented reality games don’t just cease with increasing physical activity; many players have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter to comment on the positive impact the game has had on their mental health.

 

Here are just some of the ways Pokémon Go has positively benefited the health of players:

A wholeeeeeeee heap of walking!

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Traditional videos games have long received criticism for increasing screen time and reducing physical activity in players. Pokémon Go is one of the first – and by far the most successful – games to challenge this stereotype. Players realise relatively early on that progression within the game is almost impossible without moving around – a lot. Through rewarding players who get up to move – whether it be to new physical locations to catch different Pokémon or walking a certain distance to hatch eggs (the longer the distance, the rarer the Pokémon hatched), the game proves to be an incredible motivator to encourage players to literally, get ‘out and about’.

 

My experience: I was certainly no exception to this. Within the first fortnight of downloading the app, I had walked over 71km just to catch Pokémon– (which was probably more than I had walked this entire year)! Interestingly, data from Jawbone – a wearable activity tracker – show that its average self-declared Pokémon Go user’s daily step count jumped from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 steps following the game’s release.

 

Fresh air and sunlight (in winter?!)

‘Pokémon Go is literally the only reason I decided to step out of my house and into the cold’.

It’s a statement that I’ve heard over and over again from friends and strangers alike, and words that I too can relate to. Melbourne weather, especially during winter, is notorious for being gloomy and unpredictable; for many, this is a disincentive to go out to the local park for a stroll.

Pokémon Go gives players, who may have otherwise preferred to remain rugged up indoors, a reason to step out into the real world, get some fresh air and discover new locations (and Pokémon!). There is plenty of evidence to show that breathing outdoors improves mood and health, as well as boosting vitamin D levels!

 

My experience: Since the launch of the game, I’ve observed a roughly threefold increase in the number of people at my local park (a Pokémon hotspot). It seems that players will go to any length to defend their local Pokémon gym – through rain, hail or shine.

 

Uniting friends and strangers alike – in real life

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Many popular video games have online communities, where players are able to interact with other players – such as talk, trade items and share tips – often through a pseudonym. Pokémon Go takes this to a whole new level, bringing players together in the real world, in often unexpected ways. Public locations in vicinity of Pokémon Gyms, Pokéstops and lure models are hotspots for player interactions, and interestingly, as many have discovered, Pokémon Go is an incredibly successful conversation starter. It still surprises me how small interactions with total strangers – sharing locations of where they caught their rare Pokémon or tips on Gym Battles – can lead on to fruitful conversations on just about anything and everything in life. And who knows – in a world where community division is increasingly prevalent, games like Pokémon Go might just be what we need to bring unity across people from all walks of life.

 

My experience: I was walking along the banks of the Yarra with a friend when my 10km egg finally hatched into an Onix; ecstatic, I squealed with excitement. A couple on a Pokémon date (yes this is actually a thing) ran up to us and asked us what Pokémon we had caught. Although slightly disappointed that my haul was from an egg, we proceeded to spend the next few hours chatting away about holidays and uni and life whilst taking over a few Pokémon Gyms in the vicinity. The true power (or madness) of Pokémon Go – uniting total strangers in the quest to catch imaginary monsters!

 

Improving mental health

There’s no doubt that exercise, fresh air and social interaction are part of the recipe to good mental health. Pokémon Go has been commended for being a source of motivation for many struggling with their mental health – getting players out of the house and being a bridge for interacting with friends and strangers alike – tasks which can be huge milestones for those suffering from anxiety or depression. What makes Pokémon Go so successful in this sense is the fact that the game is not presented as a tool to help treat mental illness, but rather, cultivates healthy behaviours for all players alike. Although by no means a substitute for professional treatment, the game can be the first step towards self-care and a stepping-stone towards healthier habits.

 

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Pokémon Go has had an unprecedented effect on society – in both positive and negative ways. As technology continues to advance, games based on augmented reality such as Pokémon Go will become increasingly numerous. As for whether Pokémon Go can change the health sphere? There’s no doubt that it does encourage healthy behaviours in players, and will be a huge step forward in the battle against obesity. And unlike other gaming innovations such as the Nintendo Wii – which similarly was commended as a physical activity booster but whose popularly quickly faded – the ‘shared hallucination’ of Pokémon Go and augmented reality provides the extra dimension of face-to-face social interactions with other players, contributing to the technology’s huge success.

 

No matter what the answer is, this is undoubtedly just the beginning for augmented reality games.

 

 

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Incidental Exercise for a Busy Schedule

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As a medical student life can get very busy, juggling classes, clinics, seeing patients and fitting in essentials like sleep and a social life to keep sane! As the workload piles up, exercise is usually the last thing on our minds, but it’s crucial that we keep active for our physical and mental wellbeing. Some seek solace in the gym, team sports or cycling, but others find it difficult to slot exercise into their hectic schedules.

This is where “incidental exercise” can help you out – things that are already part of your daily routine, which you can extend to get an extra workout on the go.

Here are some suggestions for incidental exercise in the busy life of a medical student, or for anyone struggling to get their recommended 30 minutes a day! (Adapted from Lazy Girl Fitness: “11 Easy Ways to Add Incidental Exercise to Your Life”

·      Getting off the bus two stops early: Public transport can be a pain, especially in peak hour when the bus seems to move slower than the people walking. Well how about joining those people and walking? As your fitness increases, start getting off earlier and earlier – you’ll notice a big difference in your energy levels as the day goes on!

·      Park further – for drivers out there, try the same kind of thing by parking further and further away from the hospital/classroom.

·      Stretch while watching TV – one hour of stretching in front of the telly has the same benefits of a gentle yoga class, can burn fat and leave you feeling refreshed.

·      Take the stairs – next time you’re moving between floors on a ward round, stop waiting ages for the lifts and take the stairs instead! It will save you time and keep you active (a win-win situation).

·      Socialise on your feet – we all (and need) our coffee, but next time you plan to meet up with a friend at the usual café, why not take a coffee to go and take a walk in the park together instead?

·      Do the ironing – it burns fat whilst keeping your clothes looking in tiptop shape.

·      Phone calls – next time you’re talking or texting, try pacing around or doing things around the house at the same time.

·      Take advantage of ads – try doing 10 push ups, 10 sit ups and 10 squats each time your favourite show is interrupted by Rhonda from AAMI or the latest German car.

·      Stand more often – unless you’re in a lecture where it would be super weird, take every opportunity to stand and move around instead of sitting down all day.

·      Lifting groceries – instead of battling supermarket trolleys with minds of their own, try using a shopping basket or two to lift your shopping and give those arms a workout.

There’s my two cents, just to show that there are many ways you can add exercise into your busy lives without having to commit to a yearlong membership at Fitness First! I urge you all to find ways of keeping active that work for you.

When should you exercise?

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This has been a subject that has been researched and debated extensively amongst exercise physiologists. There are pro and cons regardless of the time of day that you choose to exercise but the most important fact is that you choose to exercise.

The Early Risers

While it generally requires a little bit of extra commitment and preparation, that is, waking up early and not slamming the “snooze” button or having your gym bag ready to go the night before; there have been many studies that have showed significant benefits of working up a sweat first thing in the morning. This has been especially so regarding those looking for fat loss as during the night your body has consumed all the available carbohydrates or sugars and hence has to resort to burning fat to fuel the early morning workouts. It is important to note for those looking to gain muscle that working out on an empty stomach is not recommended as you ultimately compromise performance leading to lighter lifts.

Furthermore, it has been shown that those who exercise first up are more likely to maintain exercise routines in the long term as they don’t let unexpected turns in the day compromise their routine. By exercising in the morning you also prevent yourself from using the “I’m too tired” excuse at the end of the day.

Importantly, exercise raises mood, alertness and energy levels and by doing so in the morning you will ultimately have a more productive day.

The Night Owls

Exercise in the evening also fair share of benefits. For those looking to build muscle, by exercising in the evening you are ensuring that (if you diet appropriately) that your body is optimally fueled for maximal performance and hence better gains.

Evening exercise can also help limit binge eating at dinner time – a cardinal sin as excess calories at this time of day tends to be stored as fat rather than burnt off due to the close temporal proximity to sleep.

There may also be stress relief benefits by exercising after a long day. This may result in improved sleep but this has been of much debate as some studies have shown that the increased body temperature and hormone levels may in fact interfere rather than aid sleep.

So, the best time is…

Whatever works for you! There are arguments for each side but overall all that matters is that you get at least 30 minutes of exercise – the rest is very secondary.

Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!

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The benefits of yoga transcend the physical realm and, in a classic Hassed manner, extends to the psycho-social facets of life. As an alternative therapy, yoga has been recommended as an adjunct to treatment for many medical conditions – and, unlike many other complementary therapies, has been proven to be of benefit. The physical aspects of yoga combined with the breathing exercises and mediation result in it being almost the perfect recipe for a wholesome healthy life.

Regular yoga practice will lead to visible improvements in the below aspects of bio-psycho-social wellbeing amongst others:

  • Flexibility
  • Strength and muscle tone
  • Balance
  • Breathing
  • Stress reduction
  • Body awareness
  • Sleep
  •  Posture
  • Psychological – concentration, memory, attention, mood

There are many types of yoga, each with its own unique philosophy, and as a result it is important that you do some research on the class you’re planning to attend; firstly, to know what you’re getting yourself into, but also to make sure you pick the type of yoga that suits you the best. Some of the most popular styles you are likely to come across are:

  • Hatha – movement tends to be slow and gentle and hence more relaxing
  • Bikram – a progression through 26 poses in a hot room, take a towel
  • Vinyasa – poses flow from one to another, tends to be the most popular type
  •  Kundalini – a lot of spinal and core work
  • Ashtanga – aka power yoga, physically intense and probably not for a beginner

If you are signed up to a health club, most should have a yoga class that you can involve yourself with. Otherwise, there are numerous dedicated yoga studios all around Melbourne that you can either participate in classes on a casual basis or join on a fixed contract if you fall in love. If the aforementioned options don’t suit you for one reason or another, you can practice at home with the help of some excellent YouTube classes or Apple apps (Yoga Studio would be a personal recommendation – it’s full of detailed instructions and videos – all for $4.99). If you’re an absolute beginner I would highly advise you to at least start with a couple of live classes with an instructor so that your basic technique can be corrected and will decrease the chance of you causing yourself injury.

Beyond the mat, yoga is a way of life that people from all walks of life “convert” to after really connecting with the physical side of it. The philosophies surrounding yoga are ancient and deeply meaningful. If you do a quick Google search you will find endless hits on individuals who have transformed their lives through yoga and its teachings. If you really want to connect with yoga and practice on a deeper level I would highly recommend you reading “Light on Yoga” by B. K. S. Iyengar; it is a great insight to yoga off-the-mat.

Overall, the best aspect of yoga is that it is totally inclusive in the sense that anybody can do it – regardless of fitness level – and further, regardless of your fitness goals, everybody can benefit. Each pose tends to have advancing variations that you can progress through to challenge yourself as your practice improves. I can’t stress the importance of practising as regularly as possible – even if its only for 15 minutes a day – as increased frequency of practice will lead to maximal benefit.

So grab a mat, open your mind and enjoy the journey – what are you waiting for?

Namaste.

If you have any questions regarding Yoga or any other fitness topic please ask us in the comments section.

For inspiration check out: http://rachelbrathen.com/

Want to get the best exercise results in the shortest amount of time? HIIT is for you!

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What is it?

HIIT – high intensity interval training – is method of training designed to maximize the benefits of exercise in the shortest time possible making it ideal for time-restrained individuals, for example, medical students. For those of us don’t want to – or don’t have the time to – spend 60 to 90 minutes on the treadmill or lifting weights then this is ideal. All you need is 20 minutes per day to see some real results!

How does it work?

HIIT combines alternating short periods of high-intensity exercise with less-intense recovery periods.

Does the compromise in time lead to compromised results?

NO! This is the best part about HIIT. The periods of high-intensity activity leads a increased number of calories burnt and also forces your body to adapt to a superior level of exercise than a mediocre-effort 60 minute workout. HIIT also increases the “after-burn” effect where your body will continue to burn calories even after you stop exercising.

A 2011 study that was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting demonstrated that 2 weeks of HIIT increased an individual’s aerobic capacity by as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training.

Will I lose muscle mass?

NO! The short, sharp bursts of exercise combined with the rest periods ensure that the body burns carbohydrates and fat preferentially to muscle

How do I do it?

It’s simple and requires no equipment at all. You can choose any activity – running, swimming, cycling, rowing or even weight lifting – and perform that activity at 90-100% effort for no more than 1 minute and then rest for an equal amount of time – we will call that one round – and then perform as many rounds as possible. If after 20 minutes you are not exhausted, lying on the floor, you haven’t worked hard enough.

For example: jump on a treadmill, set your incline at 2.0 or above and select a speed that is a sprint for you, e.g. 16.0kph. Then sprint at that speed for 30secs and then take a 30secs rest by either stepping off the treadmill or by having an active recovery at a very low speed, e.g. 6.0kph. It is vital that your recovery is a proper recovery – you need to remember that the benefits of this training is reaped during the active phase rather than the recovery phase and by pushing yourself too hard during the recovery, you are compromising your efforts in the active phase.

If you want to make the work out harder you can increase the incline, increase your running speed or – the best way – decrease your rest time.

Just a quick warning that when you first start this sort of training it might make you feel sick or dizzy during initial sessions so its important to know your physical limits and always stay hydrated.

How do I get into it?

If you’re not sure where to start, check out some workouts on the internet, but make sure you know when to push yourself and how far 🙂 Check out http://youtube.com/blogilates or https://www.youtube.com/user/FitnessBlender

Once you get started, it’ll be hard to give it up!! Just keep going!