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Glued to Your Cell Phone? Research Suggests It May Reduce Your Physical Activity and Fitness

Posted Jul. 10, 2013

Today’s smartphones allow for increased opportunities for activities traditionally defined as sedentary behaviors, such as surfing the internet, emailing and playing video games. However, researchers Jacob Barkley and Andrew Lepp, faculty members in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University, linked high cell phone use to poor fitness in college students.

Barkley and Lepp were interested in the relationship between smartphones and fitness levels because, unlike the television, phones are small and portable, therefore making it possible to use them while doing physical activity. But what the researchers found was that despite the phone’s mobility, high use contributed to a sedentary lifestyle for some subjects.

More than 300 college students from the Midwest were surveyed on their cell phone usage and activity level. Of those students, 49 had their fitness level and body composition tested. The researchers’ results showed that high cell phone use was associated with low cardiorespiratory fitness. In the study, the students who were the least fit were those who spent large amounts of time on their cell phones – as much as 14 hours per day. The most fit students were those who used the cell phone the least – around 90 minutes per day.

One subject said in the interview data: “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.”

The study is believed to the first to assess the relationship between cell phone use and fitness level among any population. Barkley and Lepp conclude that their findings suggest that cell phone use may be able to gauge a person’s risk for a multitude of health issues related to an inactive lifestyle.

The study appears online in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

For more information about Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, visit www.kent.edu/ehhs.

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Media Contacts:
Jacob E. Barkley, Ph.D.
Exercise Science Faculty Member, Kent State University
jbarkle1@kent.edu, 330-672-0209

Andrew Lepp, Ph.D.
Recreation, Parks & Tourism Management Faculty Member, Kent State University
alepp1@kent.edu, 330-672-0218

Emily Vincent
Director, University Media Relations, Kent State University
evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595