Is your Smartphone Affecting your Workout Progress at the Gym?

Is your Smartphone Affecting your Workout Progress at the Gym?

We’re obviously big believers in the power of technology to help us transform our health and fitness. From fitness trackers and smartwatches to smart apparel and the amazing array of smartphone apps available, there’s a digital solution to just about every fitness problem you might have.

But a recent study revealed a dark side to using smartphones while working out — one that might not be too surprising if you’ve recently spent time in a busy gym.

Could your smartphone be interfering with your workout progress?

Researchers from Hiram College and the Bloomberg University of Pennsylvania recently recorded the gym behavior of 25 college students, and found some striking information about cell phone use.

Texting during exercise made balance and stability 45 percent worse compared to control tests when the students were not using a phone. Talking on the phone worsened balance by 19 percent, the authors report in the journal Performance Enhancement and Health.

“It could lead to you possibly falling off the treadmill, or if you’re walking outside, falling off a curb and rolling your ankle or tearing your ACL,” Michael Rebold, lead author on both studies and assistant professor of integrative exercise science at Hiram College, told Health.com.

Rebold also worked on a previous study, published last year in Computers in Human Behavior, which found that people who texted during a 20-minute workout spent almost 10 of those minutes in a low-intensity zone, and only seven minutes in high intensity. Sans phone, exercisers were able to spend only 3 minutes at a low intensity, and almost 13 minutes in high intensity — a striking difference (and one that makes a HIIT-style of exercise much more effective), Health noted.

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The findings seem pretty obvious — of course distraction of any kind means you’re less focused on the task at hand (getting a good workout). But Rebold says he was actually surprised by how stark and dramatic the differences were.

“The studies were done on college students, and you’d think that, being born in this digital age, they’d be able to multi-task somewhat better than that,” he says. “If we’re seeing these severe impacts even on younger generations, I can only imagine how older adults might be affected.”

If you simply cannot leave your phone behind during a workout, there’s an upside. Previous work from Rebold and team found something many of us have long suspected to be true: that music during exercise can help push intensity during workouts, and make them more enjoyable.

So the bottom line: Use your phone to stream your favorite pump-up playlist on Spotify, but leave the texting and Snapchatting for post-workout selfies only.

Has your smartphone been affecting your workout progress?

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