This article is brought to you by ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)
Advances in technology have without a doubt created some pretty incredible gadgets—the smartphone is no exception. The current cell phone or mobile phone technology provides humans with a variety of multi-functional benefits that have made smartphones a necessity for many people. 
Current cell phone technology has also become a huge asset in the health and fitness world. From calorie counting and heart rate tracking to virtual personal training and platforms for income generation, smartphones provide a variety of powerful health and fitness tools.
In addition, smartphones allow people to connect with each other from anywhere in the world. However, the problem today is many people struggle to disconnect from their cell phone. Most people are attached to their cell phone and bring it with them everywhere–including the gym. And despite its many benefits, smartphone addiction may be detrimental to the social, psychological, emotional, and physical health of an individual (1)(2).
Because cell phones provide a variety of powerful tools for health but can also be damaging to health, we wanted to explore how smartphones impact your client’s workouts and ultimately determine how smartphones can play a healthy role in your clients’ fitness goals.
Follow along as we explore the pros and cons of smartphone usage so you can determine if and how your cell phone use is affecting your clients’ fitness routine.
Pros of Smartphone Usage and Your Workout
As mentioned, smartphones offer a variety of tools that can support an individual’s health and fitness goals. Although excessive smartphone usage is not healthy, smartphones can provide many positive aspects for many fitness goers.
Listening to Music
Many people use a cell phone to listen to music, podcasts, or other motivational content during their workout. As long as the volume remains at a safe level and allows the individual to hear potential risks around them (e.g., dropped weights or passing cars), music on a cell phone can motivate or help divert an individual’s attention from the “work” associated with working out. Ultimately, using a smartphone in this way during a workout can make a fitness routine more enjoyable. 
Provides a Timer 
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabata are popular and effective forms of training. They include intense periods of work (i.e., exercise) followed by short bouts of rest. However, staring at the stopwatch or clock on a cell phone is not an ideal method to maintain the proper cadence.
These types of workouts require all-out effort with no distractions for the exercise during the work period. That being said, there are mobile phone apps that allow a client to set work and rest intervals and provide audible sounds to cue the transition between work and rest. These timers set a foundation for a safer and more effective workout. 
Tracking Statistics
Another pro of smartphones is they can capture valuable statistics for fitness users. Apps on smartphones can provide various forms of helpful data for an individual who is trying to improve their health.
A smartphone can help clients with things like:
  • Nutrition tracking
  • Measuring heart rate
  • Calorie burn or counting
  • Sleep quality
  • Activity tracker
  • Miles completed
This type of data from a smartphone is essential for baseline information, tracking progress, performance enhancement, and motivation for a client.
Virtual Training
Personal trainers can use smartphones to help fitness clients all over the world. Whether it’s one-on-one training on a video platform or a fitness app subscription that provides a client with structure and ideas for their fitness routine, a cell phone can be an incredible resource to help connect clients with the right fitness trainer and the right tools. It also means clients don’t have to be in a gym. Virtual training creates more freedom in how and when a client works out. 
A smartphone can provide tons of value to your fitness routine when used properly.
Cons of Smartphone Usage and Your Workout
Although smartphones can provide many workout benefits, they can also have a negative impact. 
Mobile phone use while walking or running can be extremely dangerous. Texting while working out or a quick glance at a text could cause a misstep that results in falling off a curb, a treadmill, or another pathway.
An exercise routine is a great time for your clients to clear their minds and focus on themselves. But some people use their workout as a time to multi-task. Catching up on work emails, posting on social media, texting clients, or tackling other tasks on a mobile phone is not uncommon. Not only does this prevent a client from putting all their energy into their workout routine (to get the results they want), but it also prevents them from detaching and destressing from other potential life stressors (i.e., work).
Impacts Mental Health
Many fitness goers like to connect with and follow fitness professionals using their cell phone apps. However, social media often creates a false reality. Perfect bodies associated with the proper lighting, at the right time of day, and with the proper filter often create an unrealistic view of what the human body looks like. Some clients strive for or obsess over these looks and in some cases go to drastic lengths to try to achieve them. The desire to look a certain way–an unrealistic way–can be damaging to an individual’s mental (and overall) health and body image.
Other Ways a Smartphone Can Affect Your Workout
Cell phone use while working out isn’t the only concern. Excessive smartphone use outside of the gym can also impact your workout. 
May Reduce Athletic Performance
The mental fatigue associated with mobile app usage on a smartphone has been shown to decrease performance. A tired brain may not be able to perform cognitive tasks as quickly or efficiently as a brain that is not tired (3).
May Impact Posture and Breathing
Staring at the cell phone with the head and neck curved downward for long periods of time can not only affect posture but also impact respiratory function (4).
Poor Sleep Quality
Smartphone usage at bedtime has shown negative impacts on sleep quality. Sleep is a vital component of brain and hormone health, recovery, and energy levels. So, lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep can be incredibly damaging to a client’s exercise routine and overall health (5). 
1. Shoukat S. Cell phone addiction and psychological and physiological health in adolescents. EXCLI J. 4;18:47-50. 2019
2. Lucie M. Ramjan, Yenna Salamonson, Sharryn Batt, Ariana Kong, Belinda McGrath, Gina Richards, David Roach, Peter Wall, Ruth Crawford, The negative impact of smartphone usage on nursing students: An integrative literature review, Nurse Education Today; Volume 102, 2021.
3. Gianpiero G, Roberto T, Pasquale, Francesco F. Negative effects of smartphone use on physical and technical performance of young footballers. Journal of Physical Education and Sport® (JPES);17(4), Art 280, pp. 2495 - 2501, 2017.
4. Sang In Jung, Na Kyung Lee, Kyung Woo Kang, Kyoung Kim, Do Youn Lee. The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function; 28 (1). 2016. 
5. Alshobaili FA, AlYousefi NA. The effect of smartphone usage at bedtime on sleep quality among Saudi non-medical staff at King Saud University Medical City. J Family Med Prim Care; 8(6):1953-1957. 2019
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