There’s no single factor that explains the rise in obesity. A number of factors play a role – increases in portion size, the popularity of processed foods and beverages, exposure to obesogens in the environment, stress and lack of physical activity all play a role. Not surprisingly, research points to another contributing factor to obesity and a decline in physical fitness – cell phones and smartphones.
Cell Phones and Physical Activity
Technology makes life easier. These days you can control many aspects of your environment without getting up from your chair through the power of technology. Phones have become more sophisticated too. In less than 50 years, going from rotary phones you dialed by turning a disc to smartphones you can use to instantly connect with friends, give directions to almost anywhere and even handles voice commands. Not only has it made life easier – it’s reduced the need to move around.
Researchers at Kent State University looked at cell phone use among 300 college students, how often they used their cell phones and how active they were. They also measured their cardiorespiratory fitness on a treadmill. They found those who were “high-volume” users of their phones were likely to be more sedentary and have a poorer fitness level than less frequent users. They were less likely to do a regular workout or engage in other calorie-burning activities.
This study is hardly surprising. With so many functions – the ability to play games, listen to music and socialize by simply reaching into your pocket, smartphones are becoming the new television, a sedentary activity that takes away time from more active pursuits. Even people who do work out often carry them to the gym and interrupt their workout to make a call or respond to a text.
Can Smartphones Help You Stay Fit?
The news isn’t all bad when it comes to smartphones and fitness. Smartphone apps can track your activity level, serve as a timer during workouts, record workout specifics, play music during a workout, track your fitness progress, schedule workouts and make it easy to post the workout you just completed to social networks online. You can also digitally download workouts to your smartphone so you can do them when you travel or even at the office if you have enough space and privacy. Smartphones CAN make it easier to stay fit and active. The key is to use it for that purpose.
Tips for Staying Fit in the Age of Cell Phones
Use your smartphone to help you stay active when you travel by downloading workouts you can do in a hotel room.
Stay motivated by using apps to track your progress.
Use your cell phone to take photos of your body so you can see how it changes over time as a result of working out.
Take advantage of the fact that a smartphone and cell phones are portable. When you talk on the phone, take a brisk walk while you chat. You’ll burn far more calories than you will sitting in a chair.
Use your cell phone to make smarter decisions about what to eat. You can access calorie and nutritional information or use an app to get healthy recipes or plan your diet. Before eating in a restaurant when you’re on the road, look at the menu and the nutritional information so you can order smarter.
Use your smartphone to play motivating exercise music while you work out.
The Bottom Line?
Cellphones and smartphones can make you more sedentary or they can be a tool that helps you stay active. Use them for the right reason.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:79.
Science Daily. “Glued to Your Cell Phone? Research Suggests It May Reduce Your Physical Activity and Fitness”