Good times.

One of the key elements of Pokémon GO is walking - not only do you have to trek around to catch monsters and pillage PokéStops, but you also have to rack up steps to hatch eggs - and it has already been pointed out that the app encourages people to partake in additional physical exercise on a daily basis.

However, a new study conducted by Microsoft Research and Stanford University researchers reveals just how much of an impact the game has had on the health of US citizens. The paper - published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research last month under the title Influence of Pokemon Go on Physical Activity - is based on a three-month study of around 32,000 wearers of Microsoft fitness trackers and concluded that interest in Pokémon GO can be linked with an increase in physical activity, and could even contribute to people living longer lives:

Highly engaged users were almost 3 times as likely to meet official activity guidelines in the 30 days after starting to play Pokémon Go compared with that before. If this user engagement could be sustained, Pokémon Go would have the potential to measurably affect US life expectancy.

We studied the effect of Pokémon Go on physical activity through a combination of large-scale wearable sensor data with search engine logs and showed that the game leads to significant increases in physical activity over a period of 30 days, particularly with the engaged users increasing their average activity by 1473 steps a day or 26 percent.

Based on our findings, we estimate that the game has already added an estimated 144 billion steps to US physical activity. If engagement with Pokémon Go could be sustained over the lifetime of its many users, we estimate that the game would add an estimated 2.825 million years of additional lifetime to its US users.

The creators of the paper have pointed out that there are some things to take into account while digesting these findings; the study only looked at anonymized data collected by Microsoft and none of the people involved were actually interviewed. That means the researchers had to guess which people were actually playing the app, based on their web and search history. Also, this data is taken from a very narrow group of people - those who feel compelled to own a fitness tracker than costs in excess of $200, and who also agreed to allow Microsoft access to their activity and search data.

Even so, the evidence is pretty clear - Pokémon GO can help you become a healthier person, purely due to the fact that it encourages you to walk around. Who knew, right?