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When You Should, Shouldn't Use a Smartphone While Exercising

"Ability to increase enjoyment."

You see them in the cup holders on elliptical machines, strapped to the arm of the guy riding his bike on the trail and in the tight grip of a woman running around the track.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Smartphones are probably one of the most popular fitness accessories whether they're running an exercise app, playing music or just keeping people connected. But how do they impact your workout?

That's what researchers at Kent State University wanted to find out and their results might have you changing your smartphone workout habits.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that people who texted or talked on their phones while on a treadmill had lower heart rates, suggesting that the study participants exercised at a lower intensity levels when they used their phones for this purpose.

"Exercising at a lower intensity has been found to reduce the health benefits of exercise and fitness improvements over time," Dr. Jacob Barkley said in a statement.

Listening to music, however, resulted in a higher heart rate. What's more, study participants also said they enjoyed exercise more when listening to music, compared to talking, texting or not having access to a phone at all, the latter instance being a control measure in the experiment.

"It appears as if listening to music and, to a lesser extent, talking may have benefits on the duration and/or frequency of exercise due to their ability to increase enjoyment," fellow researcher Dr. Andrew Lepp said. "However, if an individual’s opportunity for exercise is constrained by time, then it appears best to avoid talking on a smartphone during planned exercise."

So the takeaway here: Using your smartphone to listen to music while you exercise can not only improve the intensity of your workout, but it might help you enjoy it more as well. And keeping your smartphone on you to talk on the phone or text if you only have a short period of time to exercise might keep you from getting all the benefits you could, due its potential to create a lower intensity workout.

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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