Why You Should Never Use Your Phone at the Gym

A man disregards gym etiquette by browsing on his phone and taking up space

Please make sure you aren’t in anyone’s way while you take a break. | iStock.com/gzorgz

Going to the gym isn’t particularly fun for a lot of people. Even if you’ve made the effort to get there, you may be privy to skip sets or reps, or even just ditch an entire workout early. We can all sympathize, to some degree. Working out, especially if it’s not an entrenched habit, is hard. It’s a painful, time-consuming, and often miserable experience. For those reasons, bringing your phone along with you can make it more enjoyable.

But there are downsides, too. A good percentage (if not a majority) of people listen to music or podcasts while working out. There are even tons of apps and fitness trackers that people use to augment their workouts and track their progress.

The problem arises when you start fiddling with it for pure distraction. When you stop paying attention to what you’re doing and your surroundings. That’s when you should start considering leaving your phone at home — or at least somewhere else while you’re exercising.

Need convincing? Here are 10 reasons that you may want to consider stowing your smartphone while you’re at the gym.

1. Loss of intensity

Young man doing planks with flawless etiquette

Your phone is a huge distraction. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

A recent study from Hiram College has tied phone usage in the gym to a loss of postural stability. The researchers say your attention is divided between what you’re doing and your phone, which means you’re probably not giving each rep a worthy effort. At the end of the day, you end up leaving with a half-assed workout.

2. An increase in injury risk

A man nursing an injury

You wouldn’t want your phone to be the reason you suffered an injury. | iStock.com

That same Hiram College study also said phone usage can increase your risk of injury. “If you’re talking or texting on your cellphone while you’re putting in your daily steps, your attention is divided by the two tasks and that can disrupt your postural stability, and therefore, possibly predispose individuals to other greater inherent risks such as falls and musculoskeletal injuries,” said Michael Rebold, an assistant professor of integrative exercise science at Hiram College, in a press release.

3. Privacy concerns

female athlete with a sports bag listening to music on her mobile phone

The gym is not the best place to be a selfie king or queen. | iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

A lot of people like to take selfies or videos of themselves at the gym. By doing this, bystanders can be caught in the background, unwittingly. The Las Vegas Review-Journal says phone use can violate privacy — your fellow gym-goers probably don’t want to be featured on your Instagram feed. Be respectful of others’ privacy, and try not to take pictures when people are in your vicinity. Your gym may have a policy against this as well.

4. Distraction

A confused young man sending a text

No one wants to hear your conversation while they’re try to workout. | iStock.com/Ondine32

Your phone can distract you. But in this case, the distraction is you. If you’re having a loud conversation, or wandering around, scrolling through Facebook, you’re likely causing problems for those around you. If you need to speak to someone or just can’t peel yourself away from your social media, find a corner or get away from the gym floor first.

5. Self-awareness (or lack thereof)

Set of personal belongings lay on training bench in fitness gym

Keep your personal belongings in a locker or with you at all times. | iStock.com/golubovy

Jumping off the last point, when you’re a distraction, you may be doing more than just annoying others. If you’re on a machine or have somehow staked your claim to a piece of equipment, New York Daily News points out you need to be using it. Efficiently. Unless the place is empty, others are probably waiting for you to finish up. If you’re on your phone, you might not be aware of what’s going on around you, and end up wasting others’ time.

6. Sanitary concerns

Man wearing T-shirt and sweating

There’s a lot more bacteria in the gym than we would like to admit. | iStock.com

Sweat and other bodily fluids are pretty much everywhere, and despite the staff’s best efforts to sanitize everything, you’re bound to run into some germy surfaces. Your phone is absolutely going to pick up some of those germs — be them from you or from somebody else. If you need to bring your phone, make sure to give it a wipe down before heading home.

7. Elongated rests

Muscular man taking a load off at the gym

Taking too long in between sets could ruin your workout. | iStock.com

We mentioned a loss of intensity and a lack of self-awareness — well, this plays right into both of those points. If you’re distracting yourself with your phone, you’re probably letting too much time pass between reps or sets. As Bodybuilding.com notes, this will cause you to fall short of your goals if you let it go too far.

8. Risk of having it stolen or broken

Broken iPhone

You also put yourself in a position of losing or breaking your phone when you always have it out. | iStock.com

You wouldn’t want to drop a 50-pound dumbbell on your iPhone. But it can happen pretty easily. In fact, there are innumerable ways to break your phone in a gym. Or have it stolen right out from under your nose (especially if you’re using Bluetooth headphones and aren’t physically connected). It can be taken out of your car or locker, too. So, if you’re going to bring it with you, make sure your phone is close by and secured.

9. You’ll lose focus

A man warming up

You are in the gym to accomplish a goal. | iStock.com

Again, we’re back to a recurring theme: distraction. This will increase your injury risk, cause you to lose intensity, possibly elongate your rest periods, and overall, cause you to lose focus of why you’re at the gym in the first place. Listening to music alone might put you in the zone. If you’re using your phone deliberately to distract yourself? You’ll succeed. And before you know it, you’ll wonder why you aren’t seeing results.

10. It could land you in trouble

Man working out at home

Yes, people have been kicked out of their gym over phone usage. | iStock.com

While you probably won’t suffer any serious consequences for using your phone, there are cases of people being kicked out or banned from their gyms for violating the rules, some of which were highlighted by the Boston Herald. You’d have to put on quite the display for things to go that far, however. But do take note if your gym has any weird, stringent rules about phone use.