Cell phones and apps have become popular fitness tools, but a new study suggests that people who use their cell phones frequently may be less fit than those who use their phones less often.
Researchers from Kent State University surveyed students about their cell phone usage and habits and divided them into high-frequency cell phone users, who average 14 hours per day on the phone, and low-frequency cell phones users, who average 101 minutes per day on the phone.
Students' fitness was calculated using percent body fat and VO2 max, or maximal aerobic capacity. Data showed that high-frequency users had significantly lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness than participants who used their phones less frequently, according to the study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The high-frequency users had less free time for physical activities because of their phone usage, but researchers also found that the group's fitness level was negatively impacted by their other leisure-time activities.
"The most intensive cell phone users may be similarly attracted to other forms of digital media, such as computers, video games, movies and television—all of which are considered traditional sedentary behavior and are inversely related to fitness," researchers wrote.
Although cell phones allow users to enjoy leisure activities while exercising, they also can be portable distractions.
"While cell phones provide many of the same temptations as television and Internet-connected computers, the difference is that cell phones fit in our pockets and purses and are with us wherever we go," researchers wrote. "Thus, they provide an ever-present invitation to 'sit and play.'”
Study participants from both groups acknowledged their phones can distract them from exercising, but 37.5 percent of low-frequency users said they used their phones to connect with physically active peers, which motivated them to engage in physical activities.