Unexpected Ways to Address the Obesity Epidemic
By guest blogger Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD
Posted Jul 19, 2016
This weekend, my fiancé and I went for a walk in a nearby park to try the new Pokemon augmented reality game. In addition to catching a whole bunch of Pokemons, we walked 3 miles instead of our usual 2 miles, we stayed outside 2 hours instead of our usual 1 hour walk, we hiked higher and faster than we usually do, we talked to 23 people—some of them being on the same hunt as us—instead of talking to nobody, and we had a lot of fun. We had so much fun that we forgot to snack. When we came back, we had a smaller lunch than we usually have and felt more energized and happier than we usually do. We met and talked to people of all ages and all generations, equally excited about their discoveries. One of the people we met was an overweight lady who said she had been walking for 3 hours playing the game, while she was usually used to only walking 20 minutes. She looked excited and happy.
In my medical practice, I have worked endless hours to try to convince my patients to eat less and exercise more. People were not motivated. Getting on a treadmill or exercise bike isn’t fun. Going for walks is better, but hard to do on a consistent basis. I have tried to prescribe different diets and new medications to decrease people’s appetite and to make them eliminate more, but those medications come with side effects that are sometimes hard to tolerate. The bottom line is that it has been very difficult to make my patients lose weight and maintain their weight loss.
And here we have this new Pokemon game, which is not a drug, not a diet, not a doctor’s prescribed physical exercise and yet, it does just what we need. It is free and simple. It makes people walk half an hour and more (studies show that 20 minutes or more of physical exercise per day are recommended for optimal health). It makes people meet a lot of other people, which is great for the mood (studies show that isolation is detrimental for mood and health). It makes people get their needed Vitamin D from the sun (they should still remember to apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF on exposed skin areas). While people walk and play the game, they forget about snacking, which is much better than munching on junk food while watching TV. And above all, it makes people have a lot of fun.
This could really help slow down or even stop the obesity epidemic, that, as shown in the graphic below, has taken over the USA.
While this Pokemon game needs improvement so that people don’t fall into ponds or get hit by cars while playing, it shows that to help slow down and even stop the obesity epidemic, you don’t need to be a drug company, dietitian or a physician, you don't need to spend billions of dollars on new treatments. You can be a game designer or just a person with an original idea.
With the Web, anybody can now think outside the box to create his or her own original idea that might revolutionize the world in an unexpected positive way.
What is your original idea to stop this obesity epidemic?
Blog written by Chris Gilbert MD PhD. Integrative and Holistic Medicine
Author of "Dr. Chris's ABC's of Health" and "The French Stethoscope"
Copyright Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD