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Pokémon Go could add 2.825 million years to US life expectancy

People play at the Pokemon GO augmented reality game
Nicolas Maeterlinck | AFP | Getty Images
People play at the Pokemon GO augmented reality game

The ultra popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go has the potential to add 2.825 million years of additional life expectancy to players in the United States alone.

That's according to a recently released study by Microsoft and Stanford University researchers who analysed wearable sensor data combined with search engine logs for 32,000 individuals over the three months from July 6, the release of the game in the U.S., through August 23. Researchers extrapolated from the findings from the sample group to the 25 million U.S. Pokémon Go users.

They found that Pokémon Go users tracked, on average, an extra 192 steps per day. Fanatics, who researchers identified based on how many times they searched for information about the game, walked an average of 1,473 more steps a day.

Taken together, that means that U.S. Pokémon Go users added a total of 144 billion steps to their collective step count in their first 30 days of play. Users have effectively circled the equator 2,724 times or made 143 round trips to the moon.

Because walking more makes people more healthy, the researchers extrapolated that activity related to the interactive, location-specific game would add 41.4 days of additional life expectancy per user if they were able to sustain an extra 1,000 steps per day. Collectively, that's 2.825 million years of additional life for U.S. users.

What's particularly noteworthy about the ability of video games to get users off the couch is that they target an audience that's at risk.

"Pokémon Go has been able to increase physical activity across men and women of all ages, weight status, and prior activity levels showing this form of game leads to increases in physical activity with significant implications for public health," the study shows.

Health and fitness apps that specifically aim to make people more active are largely addressing a crowd that's already at the gym. Games can have a wider appeal. "We find that Pokémon Go is able to reach low activity populations while all four leading mobile health apps studied in this work largely draw from an already very active population," the report says.

All games lose some momentum after an early pop in popularity following launch. If Pokémon Go has a long tail, though, it could be the rare video game that allows everyone, even players, to power up.