The world views video gamers as couch potatoes who spend countless hours in front of the TV, and that may be true, for the most part. But there are some spectacular exceptions to the rule.
Tommy Monkhouse credits Pokémon Go for changing his life in a big way by helping him lose a whopping 140 pounds in just one year simply by walking.
“I feel stronger mentally, I feel stronger physically, I feel like I can be happy,” Tommy, a film and TV student at the University of Greenwich in London, told Cult of Mac. His story is a prime example of how gaming can have a hugely positive impact on a person’s life.
Tommy had already decided he needed to live a healthier lifestyle. He looked at a photo of himself one day and no longer recognized who he had become. But he wasn’t sure how he would make the changes he needed.
A friend suggested playing Pokémon Go — Tommy had been a Pokémon fan since an early age — and it turns out it was exactly the answer he needed.
Get out with Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go is one of the few augmented reality games that forces players out into the real world. It gives Pokémon fans the chance to catch more than 500 of their very own pocket monsters (virtual versions of them, at least) after hunting them down in the wild.
If you want to “catch ’em all” — like any good Pokémon trainer should — you have to be active. The game promotes physical activity by rewarding players with in-game items for walking certain distances. It also offers up virtual eggs — the contents of which depend on how far a player walks before they hatch.
Pokémon Go’s positive impact
When Tommy first started playing Pokémon Go, he told his mom he was going out for a walk, and expected to be home after 20 minutes.
“And before I knew it … I went on a three-hour walk,” he said in an awesome new video from Niantic. “And the whole time I smiled.”
“I went through this incredible journey in my head,” Tommy said. “If I can do this in three hours, what’s going to happen over, say, a week, a month, a year?” he recalled thinking at the time.
What happened was Tommy continued playing Pokémon Go and lost 140 pounds in just 12 months.
Happier and healthier
The changes started quickly. “It took me about a month to realize I’d lost any weight,” Tommy told Cult of Mac. “I was noticing slight changes and clothes not fitting as tightly. I then noticed that I was getting less and less out of breath as I was out playing the game.”
The changes made a big impact on his personal well-being.
“I watched myself go from this extremely huge person who wasn’t happy with his life, who wasn’t happy with who he was,” to being happier, healthier and stronger, Tommy said in the video.
Tommy set himself targets along the way. He aimed to walk a certain number of miles, or lose a certain amount of weight, within set periods of time. That’s usually a slog for most of us, but Pokémon Go made it easy for Tommy.
“At first it was the game itself that motivated me, giving me the opportunity to play something I love and enjoy doing while doing something good for myself,” he said. “But then upon seeing how much [weight] I’d lost, I made the conscious decision to keep playing, to keep making positive impacts on my life.”
The Pokémon Go workout
“In all honesty … I tried many different fad diets for years and tried everything I could to lose my weight,” Tommy said. “[I] would lose 1 to 2 stone [14 to 24 pounds], before packing the weight back on plus more.” He later realized those diets weren’t a long-term solution.
Pokémon Go turned out to be the personal trainer Tommy could rely on. And the game brought big benefits in many other ways — encouraging Tommy to be more social and make lasting friendships with others in the community. He’s now more confident and more outgoing than ever before.
The same approach could work for you, too.
“Any movement counts as exercise,” Robert Herbst, a champion powerlifter and creator of w8lifterusa.com, told Cult of Mac. “To the body, it does not matter if you are carrying a child or fancy kettlebells around a gym, if you are running for the bus or on a treadmill. You are using your body, stressing your muscles, and burning calories.
“In Pokémon Go, it is possible to walk/run long distances in intervals over different terrain. As such, it duplicates more structured forms of running. If an AR game causes people who do not like traditional exercise to move and has the same physiological effects, then it should be encouraged,” Herbst added.
‘I did it’
“AR games are fantastic options for fitness and losing weight,” said Mychael Shannon, a wellness coach at Elite Physiques. “For years, people thought of fitness solely as going to the gym…. But fun activities are starting to make their way into a healthy lifestyle.”
Tommy weighed almost 350 pounds at his heaviest, but playing Pokémon Go changed him inside and out.
“I went from not being happy … feeling very alone, to feeling happy in myself, physically strong, physically better,” he said. “It’s an incredible thing to say, ‘I did it.'”