Cell phones may be perfect for on-the-go use, but a new study says that those who use them most frequently are likely to stay in one place.

Kent State University researchers were interested about the relationship between higher cell phone use and physical fitness. They surveyed 305 students from the school regarding their total cell phone use each day, including the total amount of text messages they send and receive, the number of calls they send and receive, and the amount of time spent playing games, using the internet, watching videos, or downloading "apps."

They followed up with 49 students, who self-assessed their physical activity behaviors and were interviewed about their leisure activities — the interview included questions regarding how they used their phones during leisure time and how they felt it affected their physical activity. Then the students ran on treadmills at a progressively quicker speed until they became exhausted.

The results showed that higher cell phone use — as much as 14 hours per day — were associated with lower physical activity. Students who spent more time on their phone were also more likely to spend their leisure time on other forms of media, including computers, video games, movies and television, all of which, the researchers say, "are considered traditional sedentary behavior and are inversely related to fitness."

Only six students said they used their phones to contact others who were physically active. The researchers believe actions such as these could be useful health interventions using mobile devices.

"The cell phone's ability to connect individuals who share similar physical activity goals may be important for maintaining participation in extended interventions," the researchers wrote. "This sentiment was echoed by the low frequency users in this study who felt that cell phone use increased their physical activity by connecting them with a physically active peer group."

But still, the cell phones encouraged sedentary lifestyles.

"Now that I have switched to the iPhone I would say it definitely decreases my physical activity because before I just had a blackberry, so I didn't have much stuff on it, but now, if I'm bored I can just download whatever I want," one student said in the interview data.

Cell phones still provide the same temptation as computers and television, the researchers said, however, this time the phones are "in our pockets and purses, and are with us wherever we go. Thus, they provide the ever-present invitation to 'sit and play.'"

Although the results are only from a single college, in which being connected via cell phones is the cultural norm, the researchers hope future research will explore the connection between cell phone use and physical activity among other college students, as well as non-students and other age groups.


Lepp A, Barkley J, Sanders G, et al. The relationship between cell phone use, physical and sedentary activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness in a sample of U.S. college students. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2013.