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Women's Health

6 Ways to Sideline Your Smartphone During a Workout

Although smartphones can be useful exercise tools, they also can hinder your results.

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Do you have nomophobia? Most people do, and this very real fear of not having your smartphone immediately next to you at all times can be a real issue, especially as it relates to your workout.

It might seem like a no-brainer that when you talk or text on your smartphone, your workout suffers, yet researchers still wanted to know just how much phone use could impact a workout. So they put individuals through one of two 20-minute treadmill workouts: One group served as the control and had smartphone access, while the other group could talk and text on their phones as much as they wanted.

The thing most impacted about the workouts was intensity: Smartphone users completed six minutes less of vigorous-intensity exercise and 10 minutes more of low-intensity activity than the control group, according to this study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. “Because you’re doing two things at once, you’re not able to participate as fully in your workout,” says Michael Rebold, Ph.D., CSCS, study co-author and department chair and assistant professor of exercise science at Hiram College in Ohio.

In addition, you are likely looking down while checking your phone, and a study published in Performance Enhancement & Health found that texting during exercise negatively impacted balance and stability by 45 percent. “Disruptions in postural stability can accumulate and create more serious complications like herniated disks and/or compressed nerves,” Rebold says. It also could cause musculoskeletal injuries like ankle and knee sprains as well as neck strain.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that using a smartphone during a workout is all bad, and in fact, listening to music while exercising has been shown to enhance workouts and make them seem easier and more enjoyable. But if you’re agonizing over being parted from your phone even for a short workout, you may have developed a behavioral addiction.

“Dopamine floods the brain when you engage in social media, gaming or whatever your particular smartphone vice is, making abstinence very hard to achieve,” says Anna Kotwinski, co-founder of Shine Offline, a London-based company that helps people manage their relationships with their smartphones. Come up with healthier ways to get your dopamine fix, such as actually completing that tough workout without the tech. “You may just find a more fulfilling natural high than the one you’re seeking when you obsessively swipe and tap a screen,” she says.

You may feel slightly naked when you do engage in a tech-free workout, but who knows? You might become addicted to this newfound freedom instead.

Six Smart Ways to Sideline Your Smartphone During a Workout

Declare the gym or your workout space a no-phone zone.

Leave your device in the car or your locker so you can’t have access to it at all, leaving you to focus on your training and nothing else.

Downgrade to a dumbphone, one that only allows you to send simple text messages and (gasp!) actually make phone calls.

This eliminates the temptation of constantly checking your phone and saves you a ton of money — money that could be spent on new workout gear!

Don’t want to downgrade? Make your smartphone dumber, even temporarily, by turning off Notifications, Cellular Data and Wi-Fi.

You can still make calls and send texts, but you can’t check your social media, refresh your inbox, send pictures or engage in things like Snapchat.

Download an app to prevent you from perusing other apps.

Ironic? Yes, but apps like Freedom, AppDetox and Flipd can block or limit access to certain apps and websites during certain scheduled times of the day. This means you can parcel off your workout time as your own without temptation or interruption.

Set your smartphone to Do Not Disturb during your workout.

This quiets all interruptions such as calls, alerts, texts and the like during the time allotted. But fear not: Your phone does allow for someone to get a hold of you in case of an emergency; just set up those parameters in the Do Not Disturb settings.

Download Checky or Moment, apps that gather data about your phone use and record things like how many times you check your smartphone during the day.

Looking over this data will give you a perspective on how much you use your technology and will go a long way toward helping you shake the habit and focus on you, your health and your training instead.

App Snap

While fitness apps are all the rage, they are only effective to a point. Anna Kotwinski learned from personal experience that fitness apps can be addictive and thus distracting: While training for a marathon, Kotwinski used running apps. She became so fixated on the data, mileage, speed and performance that she failed to listen to her body and incurred an injury. She immediately ditched the electronics and resumed her focus. “I feel more in tune with my body, my performance has improved, and I’m coming back from runs refreshed and rejuvenated,” Kotwinski says.