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For A Better Workout, Don’t Walk and Talk

workout walking and talking

Your cell phone may be interfering with your exercise if you walk and talk during a workout.


I love having my cell phone with me when I run or walk. In addition to listening to music, I use it to track miles and keep it close by in case my family needs to reach me. But if you want to get the most from your workout – purchase a waist belt or an armband and keep your phone there. Talking or texting during exercise could negatively affect your balance, in addition to other potential harms.

Dr. Michael Rebold PhD, an assistant professor of integrative exercise science at Hiram College says, “"If you're talking or texting on your cell phone while you're putting in your daily steps, your attention is divided by the two tasks and that can disrupt your postural stability (by as much as 45%), and therefore, possibly predispose individuals to other greater inherent risks such as falls and musculoskeletal injuries.”

Listening to music does not have a notable effect on postural stability.

Also keep in mind that talking or texting during a workout likely means that you are distracted. Your pace is likely to decrease and so will your intensity. This means you aren’t getting the full benefit of your workout, including a lower working heart rate and burning fewer calories.

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Dr. Rebolds study found that treadmill speed/walking speed was lowered to accommodate talking/texting and exercising at the same time, which then reduced heart rate by as much as 12 bpm on average. When calorie “burn” was measured, the cellphone users expended 15 calories less over the course of the 30-minute workout. (While that doesn’t seem like a lot, when calculated over the course of a year, the folks who listened to music during a workout could potentially lose 8 more pounds over those who talked/texted during a workout.)

One fitness instructor also notes that multi-tasking increases stress. This is especially concerning as many times our workout is intended to relieve stress! And, of course, if you are in a class or on the treadmill surrounded by others, talking on the phone is incredibly rude.

If, like me, having your phone with you in case of emergency is important (or you store music on your phone to listen to), you should look into one of the many carrying possibilities for workouts. These include armbands, belts, and pockets. Choose one that fits your phone and allows you easy access if you really need it.

Journal Reference:
1. Michael J. Rebold, et al. The impact of different cell phone functions and their effects on postural stability. Performance Enhancement & Health, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.peh.2016.11.004
2. Michael J. Rebold et al. The impact of cell phone use on the intensity and liking of a bout of treadmill exercise. PLoS One 2015. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0125029

Photo Credit
By Brandon.wiggins - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons