More people than ever are squeezing in some light cardio on the streets of America thanks to Pokemon Go, and that game play may also have a side benefit that could increase users' life spans—to the tune of 2.83 million combined years for the estimated 25 million US players, CNNMoney reports. That figure comes out of a Microsoft Research study that found the most avid Pokemon Go players took an average 26% more steps than they did before they got hooked on the game, with the biggest gains seen among previous couch potatoes. And since more physical activity—specifically increased number of steps—has been linked to longer lives, that could be good news for everyone who spends their days on the hunt for that elusive, perhaps nonexistent Mewtwo.
The researchers looked at data culled from the Microsoft Band fitness device worn by nearly 32,000 users and found despite a user's age, gender, weight, or lifestyle habits, people who played Pokemon Go took an average 194 steps more daily than they did before they started playing. The study also compared Pokemon Go players to control groups of people who used four other health apps—and while those control subjects were found to be significantly more active than the Pokemon Go group before the experiment, the Pokemon Go users racked up larger activity increases once game play started. Scientists estimate that players who manage 1,000 steps a day could perhaps gain almost 42 extra days of life—but only if the app sustains "large-scale engagement" and keeps people on the move, lead researcher Tim Althoff tells Polygon. (What won't increase longevity: playing Pokemon Go while driving.)