Is Your Cell Phone Making You Fat?

Is Your Cell Phone Making You Fat?

Are you reading this on your smart phone? You may want to put it down. As much as I enjoy you reading my blog, I don’t want to contribute to your expanding waistline.

Or to something even more dangerous (More on that later)…

Unfortunately, if you’re reading this on a cell phone, I may be doing just that.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, people who used their cell phones frequently had a higher body fat percentage than peers who used cell phones less frequently.1

The results really don’t surprise me. After all, you can do almost anything on a smartphone, without leaving your seat. Virtually anywhere and at any time, you can not only make a phone call, you can send a text, email or tweet, search the Internet, read jokes on a Facebook page, or even watch a YouTube video.

Even if moving when texting, you’re going to walk more slowly than usual. Stopping just for a minute to check your messages? Before you know it, you’re sitting on a park bench playing a Candy Crush game.

Why get off your tush at all?

The Study In More Detail …

In the study, researchers surveyed more than 300 college students about how much they use their cell phones. Next, they randomly selected 49 students from the group for treadmill testing to measure aerobic fitness.

Those who were glued to their phones (about 14 hours a day, on average!) were significantly less fit–and fatter–than those whose screen time was less than two hours a day.

Those who spent the most time on their phones also reported being involved in more sedentary activities.

Your Cell Phone Can Even Kill You

Yes, not only does your cell phone make you fat, by all the sitting, tapping, typing and staring it’s causing, your life may actually be cut short.

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise analyzed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over about 13 years. They found that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die from any all causes, including heart disease, compared to those who sit the least.2

So if you’re sitting playing an Angry Birds game all day, you may want to make sure you’ve got a good life insurance policy.

Nighttime Screentime = Sleeplessness

I know I’m guilty of this too, but too much screen time before bed can interfere with your sleep. According to a study at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, people who spent two hours using a device with a backlit LED display – such as a smart phone – had a corresponding dip in melatonin levels.3

An uptick in melatonin production, which usually kicks in about two hours before your natural bedtime, tells the body it’s time to nod off. When you’re exposed to too much bright light at the wrong time of day, which is the case when you’ve got a screen six inches from your face late at night, you’re going to have a tough time falling asleep.

Put Down Your Phone, Save Your Life

So, it’s time to put away your cell phone and move! Here are some tips to try to cut the addiction. At least a little

  • Keep track of the amount of time you spend on your smart phone. (Yes, playing Candy Crush games counts!) Take a good hard look at that number and try to decrease that amount by 10 to 20 percent each week or so. Turn off your phone, stick it in a drawer, and just leave it there for awhile. Pay attention to how you feel without the phone glued to your hand. It may be anxiety-provoking at first, but over time you’ll get more comfortable. And you’ll see you can actually get a lot more done.
  • Pay attention to the times you feel the urge to check your phone. Are there emotions associated with it? Boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? See if you can satisfy yourself in some other way – take a walk, meditate or spend time with a friend.
  • Make a conscious effort to spend more face-to-face time with people you care about. Try something physical like a friendly game of football or a nature hike.
  • Find alternatives to online activities. Instead of playing a Words with Friends online game, play a good old Scrabble board game. Go to a movie instead of watching a video on YouTube.

Lastly, I’m sure I don’t even have to say this but it doesn’t hurt to remind everyone to never EVER text, email or surf the web while driving.

References

1. Lepp A, Barkley JE, Sanders GJ, Rebold M, Gates P. The relationship between cell phone use, physical and sedentary activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness in a sample of U.S. college students. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10:79. PMID: 23800133.

2. Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, Bouchard C. Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(5):998-1005. PMID: 19346988.

3. Wood B, Rea MS, Plitnick B, Figueiro MG. Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Appl Ergon. 2013;44(2):237-240. PMID: 22850476.

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