Is Your Smartphone Hurting Your Workouts?

by Suzanne Hiscock
Are you sabotaging your workouts by bringing your smartphone to the gym or having it nearby wherever you're working out? Not only can a smartphone be a major distraction while working out, it can have a severe affect on the quality of your workouts. And that can have a cascading effect on other parts of your life.

You might think you're multitasking as you work out and check your email or send a text. You're not. All you're doing is "task switching" -- switching your brain from one task to another. You're not really concentrating fully on either task.

You're also making it harder on your brain. Just as it starts thinking, "Hey, look at us, we're doing bicep curls" and it's thinking about proper form -- bzzzt! -- an email alert pops up and your brain needs to switch over to reading mode. "Oooh, Sammy just texted me!" Studies show that technological distractions can stress you out, make you anxious, make it hard to concentrate and can even disrupt your sleep. You know what that means? It means you're canceling out all the benefits of the exercise you're doing in the first place.

See: What's the Simplest Stress Reliever?

Break the Addiction and Turn Your Phone Off While Working Out

Sounds a bit crazy, but you can get addicted to your smartphone. People get a 'reward' for checking to see if there any messages, not to mention the opposite side of the spectrum: fear of missing out.
  • Either leave your phone in a safe and secure place or turn it off while working out.
  • If you're using a fitness app while working out, set your phone to Do Not Disturb.
  • If you're exercising for an extended period of time -- say, more than an hour -- set a specific time to check email, text and phone messages.

Working out in a class setting? Turning your phone off is a must. No ifs, ands or buts. Just. Do. It.

What About Reading or Listening to Music While Working Out?
Ah, this is one time where distraction can be a good thing. Maybe not in all cases, but in a few. Your brain can do two things at once if one of them is automatic. Reading or watching a video while walking on the treadmill; listening to music while lifting weights or running. This kind of distraction -- which is true multi-tasking -- is especially good for people who need motivation to work out.

But be careful if you're using this kind of distraction. If you're too focused on the distraction, your work out can suffer if you're 'phoning in' your work out.

What about you? How addicted are you to your phone? Do you turn it off while working out?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN L2 Certified Master Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 20 years, she's been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website,

And she’s really TRULY SORRY ABOUT THAT. You see, she didn’t realize she was contributing to diet culture; she just wanted to help people feel better. But losing weight isn’t the way to do it. She’s on a mission to change all that with an anti-diet approach. So, pardon the dust on the floor as the website gets revamped.