Is Your Smartphone Hurting Your Workout?
Smartphone use is deeply woven into modern life. For most, the first activity in the morning is picking a phone up, and the last activity before bed is putting it down. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report, 45 percent of adults and 58 percent of 18 - 24-year-olds reported that they thought they used their phones too much. These are alarming stats.
Smartphone usage can have negative impacts on many aspects of our lives, from relationships, and endangering our lives through constant distraction when we should be paying attention. But can it affect your time at the gym and even make you eat more calories?
Eating and Scrolling
My first smartphone was purchased in 2010. For the many years proceeding that event, I couldn't tell you what I did while I was eating. I must have just eaten food. Admittedly now, I routinely find myself eating and scrolling. The same report mentioned above found that 30 percent of adults and nearly 50 percent of 18 - 24-year-olds reported using their phone while eating at home with their family and friends.
Using a smartphone while eating, aside from being seen as rude when out for dinner, may seem quite harmless. But it could be more troublesome than you think, especially when dieting or trying to consume fewer calories.
Recent research published in Physiology & Behavior looked at the effects of smartphone usage while eating. The study found that eating with a distraction such as a smartphone or a magazine, increased calorie consumption around 15 percent when compared to eating with no distraction.
It is theorised that distraction while eating disrupts memory processes and may lead to consuming excess calories.
Smartphones and Exercise
Walk into any gym, and you will see countless people staring at phones in between sets or on the treadmill. Texting, scrolling social media and even sneaking in the odd cheeky gym selfie or twenty.
Smartphones have their place in the gym and can be useful tools when used for the rights things. A range of apps are available that can assist with all aspects of training, including diet.
There is some evidence to suggest that using fitness based smartphone apps can increase physical activity. But not all usage is created equal.
A recent study highlighted the negative impacts of texting while working out. The researchers had 32 students participate in 30 minutes of exercise on a treadmill, one group being able to respond to texts and a control group with no texting. Unsurprisingly, the intensity was much lower in the text group.
Furthermore, (another no brainer) a sperate study showed that working out on the treadmill and using a smartphone for texting and calls decreased balance and postural stability by 45 percent. Using your phone while you workout not only reduces intensity but could lead to serious injury or treadmill burn.
Obviously, the above studies don't apply directly to lifting weights, where it is rare to see someone using a smartphone while doing a set - as it is near impossible to achieve on most exercises. It is not much of a stretch to see that particular smartphone based distractions such as texting and scrolling social media in-between sets may decrease the intensity by taking you out of the zone. Whereas, using a smartphone to listen to music or record progress in a fitness app could benefit your workout. There are clearly smarter ways to use a smartphone in a gym.
Smartphones and Sleep
An earlier article went into detail about the importance of sleep for not only performance in the gym but for weight loss and recovery. A summary of the article is: sleep is extremely important for basically everything you care about in the gym. You can read in more detail by clicking here: How Important Is Sleep For Muscle Growth, Fat Loss and Recovery?
A large body of evidence exists showing that screentime, especially in the hour before bed compromises your sleep in various ways. Devices such as smartphones emit blue-light directly into your eyeballs while you scroll Instagram before bed.
Research shows that people who use devices before bed have a harder time falling asleep, experience less restorative REM sleep and struggle with alertness the next morning. Given the importance of sleep for basically everything health related, putting your smartphone down the hour or so before bed may help you in the gym the next day too.