Elizabeth Bauer never intended to use the Pokemon Go app for weight loss or any other health reason.
But after walking 20 miles the weekend the app went viral, and averaging 10 miles a day after that, she lost five pounds in one week.
“It’s amazing what an app can do for the world in just 24 hours,” said Bauer, who is approaching her senior year at the College of Charleston.
The app went viral last month after it was downloaded 30 million times in less than two weeks.
Players try to capture virtual creatures before other competitors. Gamers also visit Pokestops, which provide items that can be used to advance in the game, and Pokegyms, which are battle locations for team matches. The game has led players into hospitals, restaurants, libraries and other buildings.
In fact, at least two South Carolina hospitals, including Trident Health in North Charleston, have banned the game on campus because officials argue that gamers roaming the halls in search of wild Pokemon compromise patient safety and privacy.
But other health experts say the game’s obvious benefits speak for themselves.
Out at the Charleston Battery, Bauer was recently seen sporting a temporary tattoo on her upper back that represents Team Mystic, the most popular of three teams, according to multiple gaming websites.
Pokemon Go players may choose to participate in one of these teams.
She downloaded the app on a Thursday in early July, just before it became a huge phenomenon.
“By Saturday, there were like 50 people in Marion Square,” Bauer said.
With limited gym hours at her school, and having to balance work and summer classes, Bauer’s thirst to find wild Pokemon has provided an alternative way to get her daily dose of cardio.
North Carolina residents Jon Younce and James Soderberg were recently visiting the area and said the game gives them a way to exercise while they are away from their gym back home.
“And I’m usually not even into cardio, so this is a cool way to get some exercise in while we’re visiting,” Younce said.
The exercise aspect is a huge benefit for gamers, said James Benner, a cardio-thoracic surgeon with Trident Health. On a personal level, he and his family have also been catching wild Pokemon at the beach and nearby popular locations.
From a professional standpoint, Benner said it’s easy to see why many gamers are reaping health benefits from the app.
“Anything you can do that helps you exercise for 20 or 30 minutes a day is a positive. It gets you out and about and provides weight loss and cardiovascular benefits,” Benner said.
But there are potential health drawbacks, too. Playing too long while being exposed to the summer heat raises concerns about heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Benner says gamers can avoid those risks by playing during cooler hours of the day.
Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517.