July 20, 2016 1:07 pm
Updated: July 20, 2016 1:16 pm

How many calories can you burn playing Pokemon Go?

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Pikachu, Charmander and Squirtle have pulled off what U.S. first lady Michelle Obama spent the past eight years trying to accomplish: to get kids and young adults more physically active.

Pokemon Go has Canadians, young and old, outdoors, walking through parks and long distances in search of Pokemon, Pokestops and “gyms” to battle other trainers.

This calculator created by OmniCalculator helps you estimate how many calories you’re burning by hatching eggs:

But is your physical health improving and are you meeting exercise targets by playing the highly addictive game?

Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend that kids five to 17 years old should get 60 minutes of physical activity per day. The exercise can be sporadic, such as running to the mailbox after school or playing for 15 minutes at recess, but it has to be a “moderate to vigorous” workout, such as running or bicycling. Children need to aim for 12,500 steps a day.

Adults need about 150 minutes of physical activity for the week. Adults have a 10,000-step daily target.

“[Pokemon Go] is getting kids and adults up off the couch whereas a few years ago they were playing Candy Crush, but it’s not to a point where kids or even adults are reaching that vigorous physical activity level,” Dr. Kim Simpson, who runs GoodLife’s 4 Kids School program, warned.

READ MORE: How Pokemon Go helps youth cope with mental health issues, social anxiety

She also teaches group classes at GoodLife Fitness – there, she’s seen people working out running around the gym in an attempt to catch more Pokemon.

Dr. Allana LeBlanc likes that the game tracks distance and gives trainers an incentive to keep watching to reach a new level or to hatch eggs. An egg collected at a Pokestop won’t hatch unless the user walks two kilometres, for example.

“This makes a gamification of physical activity and it’s not as demanding or intimidating as going to the gym. It’s getting people active, especially outdoors, walking much further than they’ve walked in a long time. That’s a start for behaviour change,” LeBlanc told Global News.

LeBlanc is a knowledge manager at ParticipACTION, which focuses on getting Canadians of all ages on their feet, and an exercise physiologist at the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Her research zeroes in on sedentary behaviour in kids.

READ MORE: Here’s how Canadians are playing Pokemon Go

Users talk about walking kilometres at a time to reach milestones in their game. Keep in mind, the average adult takes about 1,200 steps in a kilometre, LeBlanc said.

One hour of moderate walking on a treadmill eats up 500 calories for the average adult, Simpson said. Burning an additional 500 calories per day could help you lose about a pound a week.

The experts say, depending on how often you’re walking, weight loss is plausible. In one case, a Pokemon trainer in Regina told Global News he lost 10 pounds from walking about 70 kilometres in a week.

(But many other factors are at play: age, weight, walking pace, distance covered, if there’s an incline, and your daily eating habits, for starters.)

READ MORE: How to play Pokemon Go

While you may not be hitting targets for exercise that get your heart rate going, you’re still off your feet and taking away from sedentary time, Dr. Greg Wells, a University of Toronto kinesiologist, told Global News.

“Walking is one of the healthiest activities people can do. If you’re out walking for hours a day for weeks in a row, you’re going to have changes in your physiology for sure,” he said.

The experts concede Pokemon Go – and the string of health benefits that coincidentally came with it – may be a fad. There was Nintendo Wii, FitBit trackers and other devices that got people exercising before, but the hype would die down in about three months, LeBlanc said.

READ MORE: Playing Pokemon Go may be beneficial to your health

Only time will tell if the health benefits from Pokemon Go will linger, the experts say.

“Perhaps this is just the beginning. They may not play for the rest of their lives, but people might discover they like walking, going to the park or doing things that don’t involve sitting at home in front of the TV,” Wells said.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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