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Don't Text and Run

Smartphone Use Reduces Treadmill Exercise Intensity

As temperatures begin to drop, many of us are exchanging running paths for treadmills and taking our workouts inside. Though convenient, there is a reason the treadmill has earned the stigma of “the dreadmill”—running in place can prove tedious and minutes can seem like hours without the distraction of technology. Smartphones can provide just the entertainment you need, but how you use them may make or break a workout.

We all know texting while driving is taboo for safety, and a 2015 study finds texting while running may be taboo for intensity. Researchers from Kent State University recruited 44 young adults to participate in four different 30-minute treadmill sessions on separate days. During three of the sessions, participants used their cell phones to talk, text or listen to music. During one session they had no cell phone access. Participants selected their initial treadmill speed and could speed up or slow down the treadmill as they pleased; however, the time and speed displays on the treadmill were hidden during the workout.

Comparing the four workouts, average treadmill speed while texting or talking ranked at the bottom of the list. Texting on the treadmill also resulted in the lowest average heart rate among any of the workouts. Listening to music not only yielded the fastest average speed and highest average heart rate, it was also the most enjoyable of the four workouts, an important factor when making exercise a daily habit. Assuming a person gets the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, the researchers estimate using a cell phone to listen to music rather than to text or talk could result in an extra 1.1 pound loss per year. This may seem small, but over time this simple habit could help combat the average one pound Americans gain per year.

Let technology be your teammate, not your rival at the gym. Create a playlist of your favorite upbeat tunes to help you power through your workout, but switch your call and text tones to silent if listening to music through your phone. Using a different device for music? Keep your cell phone in your locker and use your workout time for you—your texts will be there when you’re done!

Published October 1, 2015

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