Why You Should Put Your Phone Away When Working Out

Hands up who’s found themselves doom scrolling in between leg day sets? Ah, look now, you’ve dropped your phone.

Americans apparently check their phone 96 times a day — or roughly once every 10 minutes. Quick maths tells us that in a 40-minute gym sesh, you’ll be diving into your pocket four times. But as a quick glance around most weights rooms reveals, for most people ‘rest session’ is synonymous with ‘TikTok check-in’. Now, there are all kinds of general mental health issues linked to this phone-checking, with a 2022 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Health Communication, finding that folks with an obsessive urge to constantly check the news were more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, as well as physical ill health. Looking more specifically at your workout, the constant distraction of your phone can hamper your gains in a number of ways.

Increases injury risk

A 2017 study published in the journal Performance Enhancement & Health found that texting during exercise impacted participants’ balance and stability while exercising by a whopping 45 per cent. Talking on the phone instead of texting didn’t impact balance as much, but it still hampered the participant by an average of 19 per cent. This division of attention while lifting and exercising could lead to falls and musculoskeletal injuries, according to the study's authors, and we all know that nothing slows down gains quite like an injury-inforced break from the squat rack.

Lowers the intensity of your workout

On top of this, a 2016 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that people who texted during a 20-minute workout spent nearly 10 of those working out minutes in a low-intensity zone, and only seven minutes in high intensity. In comparison, those who worked out without a phone spent only three minutes at low intensity, and almost 13 minutes working out at a high intensity.

Listening to your workout playlist is A-OK

The only possible occasion when your smartphone might help your workout is to provide it with some musical accompaniment. In fact,  Journal of Sports Exercise Psychology study found that motivational music helped exercisers push through fatigue during an exhaustive endurance task. The study specifically refers to synchronous music, when the pace and tempo of the music matches that of the activity you’re doing. Think more PinkPantheress and less Adele.

Staying focused as you workout

In sum, the key to having your workouts stay on track is to keep your focus on the task at hand. A number of built-in tools can help you here, including the ‘Focus’ setting on your iPhone, which allows you to remove the ability to access all but a handful of apps for a set amount of time. Timing your rest periods is also a good way of keeping your workouts tight and preventing your mind from wandering when you’re not lifting, as does logging your workout, which has the added benefit of helping you keep track of your progress and how heavy those dumbbells actually were last time you were cranking out the curls.

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