Pokémon GO and More Apps That Make You Exercise

When You Get Tired of Pokemon GO, Give These Apps a Try

July 2016 might as well be renamed, "The Month of Pokémon GO." Released to iOS and Android on July 6, within two weeks the nostalgic 90s game that today's millennials grew up with racked up more than 15 million downloads as enthusiastic gamers hit the streets to capture Ponyta and Caterpie (just a few of the "pocket monsters" you can collect on the go).

Playing Pokemon Go in the Street
amesy / Getty Images

An unexpected side effect of all that Pokémon catching was a surprising uptick in the physical activity of gamers everywhere. For instance, Nicole Handler, a runner, CrossFitter, and healthy living blogger at Fitful Focus says, "My boyfriend and I have been going on post-dinner walks (something we never did before) just to catch Pokémon. I've also been using it to help hit my 10,000 steps for the day."

Parents are also using the app to help motivate their kids to get outside and rack up exercise. Jennifer Hodgkiss, a full-time traveler, mom of two, and blogger at The Paleo Gypsy notes that, "My kids and I have consistently walked around 5,500 steps a day since we started [using] the app. Before that, the kids didn't really want to walk. One of the days we logged 17,000 steps." 

Lindsey Murray, a mom of two and a creative entrepreneur at Lindsey Skye adds, "As silly as it is, every day since we downloaded Pokémon GO, my kids have asked to go for a walk. They don't have smartphones of their own, but they think it's hilarious and fun when we stop to 'catch' something. We've definitely been more active together!"

It's not just these anecdotal stories that prove the Pokémon GO app is getting people up and moving. According to a report from BuzzFeed News, Jawbone UP, Cardiogram, Withings, and Spire (all apps or activity trackers), each saw an increase in users' activity since the release of Pokémon GO. The most notable is that of Jawbone UP, which isolated the activity of roughly 100 users who mentioned the word "Pokémon" in their activity logs and noted an almost 5,000 step increase in activity between the weekend of the app's release and the previous weekend. 

That said, Pokémon GO isn't for everyone. Maybe you didn't grow up in the 90s when Pokémon was first released, or maybe you're not currently under the age of 18, or maybe you're just "too cool for school" and can't fathom jumping on the Pokémon GO bandwagon even though you're secretly dying to try it. It's OK. There are other apps out there that deliver the same gameplay-meets-exercise utility of the Pokémon GO app. 


The Walk

Created with NHS and the UK Department of Health, The Walk is a fitness tracker and game designed to help you...you guessed it, walk more.

Essentially The Walk immerses you in a 500-mile journey where you're the lead character in a mystery thriller. After surviving a virtual bomb explosion, you're given a mysterious box that could save the world—you just have to transport it 500 miles (over the course of three months) to deliver it to its destination. As you log your steps in the app, the storyline and game continue to unfold. 

Available on ​iOS and Android. The first five episodes are free, and the remaining 60 can be accessed with a $5.99 a month subscription.


Zombies, Run!

If you're a runner or a wannabe runner, Zombies, Run! is the app for you. This ultra-immersive running app is designed around 30-minute running routines that encourage interval training as you try to outrun the virtual zombies that are always on your heels. Every run you take with the app is a new mission to collect supplies to fortify your base. 

Available on iOS and Android for free. You can unlock a new episode each week or pay a subscription fee for unlimited access.



If hunting ghosts sounds like more fun than hunting Pokémon, then SpecTrek is the game for you. Much like Pokémon GO, SpecTrek uses GPS and augmented reality to turn you into a real-life virtual ghostbuster. As you trek around your city, you'll use the game to find and catch virtual ghosts that (who knew?!) live all around you. As you play, you'll rack up statistics, awards, titles, and records.

Available on Android for $2.49; a light version is available for free.



Geocaching is like the original Pokémon GO, and it's actually much more immersive than any augmented reality game. This is because geocaching is all about finding real-life hidden treasure using GPS coordinates and compasses. The official geocaching app continuously updates based on your location to find nearby caches, and it connects you with a treasure-hunting community you can turn to when you have questions or need tips. 

Available on iOS and Android for free, although extra services are available for premium members.



Ingress, developed by the same company that developed Pokémon GO, is a bit like Pokémon GO's older brother. Very similar in functional gameplay, it's a more mature game steeped with mystery and intrigue where players are forced to choose a "side."

Like Pokémon GO, you play the game by moving around in your natural environment, using your device's GPS to find objects to aid you in your quest, align with other players, and discover sources of the game's "mysterious energy." 

Available on iOS and Android for free.

The Changing Landscape of Gaming Apps

It's important to note that the July 2016 release of Pokémon GO in the U.S, Australia, and New Zealand shook up the app world.. For instance, a strikingly similar app, Citymon Go, was the most downloaded iOS app in China in that July. 

As app developers rush to make similar games, the opportunities to combine virtual gameplay and exercise will continue to expand.

1 Source
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  1. Sensor Tower. Mobile users are spending more time in Pokemon Go than Facebook.

Additional Reading

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.