As you round the corner on a run through your neighborhood, your phone buzzes in your hand. You slow your pace and check the message you just got, tapping out a quick response, and your back to your run. Later, as you’re about to finish the last of your sets at the weight rack, you stop and browse your phone for a few minutes. Then, right before bed, you bath your face in the electric blue glow of your phone screen as you get caught up on the day's news before you turn in.
Our smartphones are an omnipresent part of our everyday lives. It’s easy to see why, they’re infinitely useful, tracking everything from our finances to our steps and calories. But while they might be useful, they might also be having an impact on your physical fitness. Here at Axis Labs, we’re all about helping our customers live their healthiest lives. While this article is certainly no attempt to “scare you straight” and convince you to abandon your smartphone in favor of a brick phone, but merely to shed light on how your phone might be impacting your health in unexpected ways.
You can talk the talk, and you can walk the walk, but can you do both at the same time? Studies suggest that this might not be possible when you’re playing with your phone. The journal Performance Enhancement & Health found that exercise was impacted by the presence of a cell phone. The study looked at different phone functions, like texting, talking, and music, and then compared their effects on postural stability.
What they found was fairly surprising. Researchers noted that postural stability was dramatically worsened when subjects were texting and talking but listening to music did not have as much of an impact. The article suggests that by texting and exercising, you’re dividing your attention between two tasks. This results in a greater risk of sustaining an injury during exercise. The most telling examples are in the data itself. Balance and stability declines by 45% when texting and exercising. Talking on the phone worsens balance by 19%.
A Pain in the Neck
We’ve all been warned about hunching over things while we work on them, be they books, keyboards, or in this case, phone screens. As cell phones have become more prominent, so have issues related to the spine. Typically, when we use our phones, our spines are not in an optimal position. Our neck is bent, our shoulders rounded, and our head hangs down.
This might not seem like a big deal, but when this behavior is repeated over and over again, for hours at a time in some cases, it can have long-term effects on your health. For instance, when you bend your neck 60 degrees to look over your phone, you’re putting tons of pressure on your cervical spine. The human head weighs about 10-12 pounds on its own, but when hung down, you’re putting approximately 60 pounds of pressure on your neck and spine.
Eventually, this could result in the degradation of the natural curve of your neck and cervical spine, which could mean a costly and otherwise unnecessary surgery. Of course, to correct this, you can simply limit the amount of time you spend looking at your phone. But if that’s not always easy to do, simply bring your phone up to head height rather than looking down at it.
Your Pump Passes By
Some exercises require you to keep your heart rate at a certain metric in order to be the most effective. But frequently checking your phone can interrupt your workflow and put longer breaks between sets. This can lower your heart rate, meaning your workout isn’t as productive as it should be.
Phones Make Sleep Difficult
In a previous post, we’ve covered why your body needs its rest, and sleep is the greatest way to restore your body every day. But using your phone regularly before bed or at night may keep you from getting the rest you desperately need.
Smartphones emit a blue light that suppresses your body’s ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body produces to help you fall asleep and maintain a regular circadian rhythm (that’s your wake/sleep cycle). When your body produces less melatonin, you’ll find it’s harder to fall asleep, and even worse, harder to stay asleep.
Equally frustrating is that smartphone usage before bed keeps your brain active and alert. It’s not uncommon for many people to watch a quick YouTube video before bed, or to send a few emails, or even to read a book on your phone before bed. While you might think this can lull you to sleep, the things you’re engaging with actually wake your brain up, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Finally, your phone is routinely waking you up throughout the night. Every chirp, pop, ding, and buzz can roust you out of your slumber. For instance, in 2014, the National Sleep Foundation found that roughly three out of every four children sleep with an electronic device in their room. The study found that these children slept about 7.2 hours a night compared to the 7.7 hours of children who didn’t. The study found that the devices interrupted the sleep of the study’s subjects.
To combat these effects, make sure to put your phone away at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Just like you need to let your body cool off after an intense workout, your brain needs to relax and unwind after a long day of being stimulated.
Prioritize Your Health with Axis Labs
Like all things in life, using your phone requires balance. There’s no denying the uses it has, but that shouldn’t justify overuse. Instead, find time to separate yourself from your phone, especially when you exercise. You’ll find that you enjoy the time you spend away from it and that when you do use your phone, you’ll use it intentionally.When you’ve put down the phone, it’s time to pick up the great pre-workout and fitness products offered by Axis Labs. Lab-tested and gym proven, all of our products are designed to fit naturally into your health and wellness routines and to enhance the effects of your exercises. Browse our collections and order today.