Health & Wellness

First step to losing weight: put down the cell phone

Fuse/Getty Images / Today
First Step to Losing Weight: Put Down the Cell Phone

You woke up this morning, all fired up to go to the gym—for the first time in ages—and you really meant to go, you truly did. But then your phone buzzed before you even got out of bed, and it was a friend texting with a delicious tidbit of gossip. Of course you had to respond—back and forth for about 10 minutes. And since your phone was in hand, it only made sense to check Facebook to see what else was going on in the world, which led you to a friend’s Instagram profile and suddenly, those 40 minutes that you’d dedicated to gym-going had been eaten up by all those little apps on your smartphone. Whoops.

Familiar scenario? According to a new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, those of us who are glued to our phones 24/7 get less exercise and are in worse physical shape those who use their phones infrequently during the day. Yep, looks like our trusty, go-everywhere gadgets that we can’t live without are making us fat and lazy.

Unlike all of the other evil, sedentary devices before cell phones—TVs, video games and computers—you'd think their portability would encourage movement and on-the-go activity. But the oh-so-tempting lure of having Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Etsy, Angry Birds and every other diversion at our fingertips seems to have had the opposite effect for the most dedicated of users—causing us to sit, tap, type and stare.

The study of 300 students at Kent State University was broken up into three groups; low-frequency users (logged 90 mintues of use a day); moderate users (average of 5 hours phone time a day); and heavy users (spending up to 14 hours a day on their phones). Where do you fall?

After surveying users about their physical activity, researchers measured their fitness levels by having them run on a treadmill till exhaustion, as well as measuring their body fat. As expected, those who used their phones the most were in the worst physical shape.

Some students even reported that certain phones were more of a time suck than others. One interview subject said: "Now that I have switched to the iPhone, I would say it definitely decreases my physical activity because before I just had a Blackberry, so I didn't have much stuff on it. But now, if I'm bored, I can just download whatever I want. I really cannot get bored using it. Before I would always get bored and I would have to find something else to do and that would involve like going somewhere or playing sports or doing something."

Our transition into the tubby WALL-E humans who travel everywhere by conveyor belt will soon be complete. Aren’t we lucky for all this convenient technology? Hopefully by then they’ll have invented something that works out our muscles for us, too.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.