Using Your Phone Is Actually Disrupting Your Workout


Cellphones are seen everywhere in the hands of everyone, from people texting in line at the coffee shop to those watching videos while in the waiting room at the dentist’s office.

For many people at the gym, using their cellphone is a way to distract themselves during a long cardio session on the treadmill, but that usage could be compromising postural form during workouts and could even cause the exercise to be lessened in intensity.

Michael Rebold, Ph.D., assistant professor of Integrative Exercise Science at Hiram College, has reported findings that could convince gym-goers to put their cellphones down.

According to his research, published in Computers in Human Behavior and Performance Enhancement & Health, using a cellular device to talk or text while performing an exercise will cause balance to be compromised and lower the intensity of the workout.

Rebold and his team of researchers from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania performed two studies, both of which indicated an effect of cellphone usage on exercise quality and intensity. The most recent of these studies showed that cellphone usage to talk or text during everyday activities could have a negative impact on the person’s balance. If everyday activities are affected, exercise and specific physical activities can be especially compromised.

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The study was conducted by observing and analyzing 45 college students who were asked to perform a power walk on the treadmill while texting on the phone, talking on the phone, listening to music, or using no phone whatsoever.

Rebold and his partners found that compared to no cell phone usage, postural stability was affected by 45 percent when texting during a workout. When talking on the phone while exercising, postural stability was affected by 19 percent. However, listening to music did not affect the students’ postural stability in any way.

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This is the first study that has been published nationally that exposes the effects of cellphone usage on posture and balance. However, it confirms past studies that report a significant effect of cellphone usage on the spine and on forward head posture.

These new findings are particularly important for those looking to get the most out of their workout.

“If you’re talking or texting on your cellphone while you’re putting in your daily steps, your attention is divided by the two tasks and that can disrupt your postural stability, and therefore, possibly predispose individuals to other greater inherent risks such as falls and musculoskeletal injuries,” says Rebold.

The best strategy is to put your cellphone away where it won’t be a distraction, or turn it off while exercising. Listening to music is another fine option, as long as looking at the phone is kept at a minimum.