Four hours and 21 minutes; that’s how long each day on average I have spent on my phone over the last week. Was I being productive? Was it time well spent? I doubt it. However, it did get me thinking about the impact that smartphones are having on our health.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that on average, over a third of my daily screen time was spent on health and fitness related apps – tracking my heart rate on Polar, my nutrition on MyFitnessPal and my workouts on Strava and Gym Boss. Here we have smartphones making a positive impact on health and fitness – the ease with which exercise and eating habits can be tracked is encouraging many people to be active and in particular take control of their nutrition. It has never been easier to track what we eat and ensure our diet is nourishing yet not packed full of unnecessary calories.
Whilst fitness tracking apps encourage those already on their fitness journey to continue exercising, smartphones are also helping to get even the most sedentary up on their feet and walking. All smartphones now have built in step counters which is allowing a lot of people to set themselves the target of walking 10,000 steps everyday – an easily achievable goal that the inventor of the 10,000 step theory, Dr Yoshiro Hatano, believes could burn up to 20% of a person’s calorie intake.
Further to this, smartphone technology now means that everyone is carrying a library of workouts and healthy recipes around in their pocket. Whether you’re at home in your living room or you’re away and in a hotel room, a quick search on Instagram or YouTube and you have access to thousands of workouts that can be completed with little to no equipment, all of which are supported by video instruction. On top of this, we ourselves at PGPT put a load of great and helpful content out on our blog every week: Read The PGPT Blog
… smartphone technology now means that everyone is carrying a library of workouts and healthy recipes around in their pocket.
The Bad Effects of Smartphone Usage
Sadly, for those of you, like me, that are glued to your phones, this is where the praise of the smartphone ends, and we start looking at the problems associated with them.
One big problem with increased smartphone usage is the damage that it is doing to your spine. Our spine is happiest when our shoulder blades are retracted and our neck is neutral (think of pulling your ears back to be level with your shoulders) – not the position created when looking down at a phone as the tendency is to round the shoulders forward and tilt the neck down.
A into the stress placed on the cervical spine during different postural positions has shown that tilting the head forward to 60 degrees (a position adopted by most when on their phone) adds as much as 60 pounds (27.2kg) of stress to the neck. This is a weight that many people wouldn’t even be able to pick up from the floor and yet we sit for in a position that effectively hangs this weight from our neck for extended periods of time.
The author notes that this continual loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine can lead to early wearing and degeneration of the spine which can ultimately result in the need for surgery.
The easiest solution to this problem is to significantly reduce phone usage, however if this isn’t an option you should think about changing the way you look at your phone as a neutral neck position only places stress equal to the weight of your head. So, stop looking down when you use your phone and instead hold your head high, pull your shoulders back and hold your phone in front of your face.
Another issue with prolonged smartphone usage is the amount of blue light we are subjected to every day. Our phones are designed to be seen even on the sunniest of days and as such emit lots of bright blue light. The most worrying problem here is that blue light has been to cause damage to the retina which could ultimately affect eyesight. One suggestion to counter this is to employ the 20:20 rule whereby for every twenty minutes spent looking at your phone you should then focus on something twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
Further to the damage that this can do to our eyes, exposure to blue light can also seriously disrupt our sleep patterns. This is because blue light stops the pineal gland producing melatonin, a hormone important in helping us get to sleep. Therefore, it is a good idea to leave the phone alone before bedtime to enjoy a better night’s sleep.
Whilst the “ten thousand step” movement has got a lot of people up and moving and all our smartphones are a pocket library of workouts and recipes, there’s no hiding from the fact that the smartphone is making life sedentary and encouraging extreme laziness. The best example of this is the food delivery app. Think back fifteen years and more often than not getting a takeaway would have involved a short walk (even if only to the car) to pick the food up. However, now we press a few buttons on our phones, sit on the sofa checking how long until our food will be with us and then bemoan the fact that we have to answer the door when the food finally arrives.
It is for these reasons that I personally will be heavily reducing the amount of time that I spend on my phone and I would strongly encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Next time you’re on your phone, ask yourself, is it urgent, is it important and do I need to be on my phone? If the answer to these is no then put the phone away, lift your head and enjoy the natural light around you.
Favourite film: Jarhead
Favourite food: Panang Curry
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