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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

The relationship between cell phone use, physical and sedentary activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness in a sample of U.S. college students

Andrew Lepp1*, Jacob E Barkley1, Gabriel J Sanders2, Michael Rebold1 and Peter Gates1

Author Affiliations

1 College of Education, Health and Human Services, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242-000, USA

2 Department of Kinesiology and Health, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY 41099, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:79  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-79

Published: 21 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Today’s cell phones increase opportunities for activities traditionally defined as sedentary behaviors (e.g., surfing the internet, playing video games). People who participate in large amounts of sedentary behaviors, relative to those who do not, tend to be less physically active, less physically fit, and at greater risk for health problems. However, cell phone use does not have to be a sedentary behavior as these devices are portable. It can occur while standing or during mild-to-moderate intensity physical activity. Thus, the relationship between cell phone use, physical and sedentary activity, and physical fitness is unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate these relationships among a sample of healthy college students.

Methods

Participants were first interviewed about their physical activity behavior and cell phone use. Then body composition was assessed and the validated self-efficacy survey for exercise behaviors completed. This was followed by a progressive exercise test on a treadmill to exhaustion. Peak oxygen consumption (VO2 peak) during exercise was used to measure cardiorespiratory fitness. Hierarchical regression was used to assess the relationship between cell phone use and cardiorespiratory fitness after controlling for sex, self-efficacy, and percent body fat. Interview data was transcribed, coded, and Chi-square analysis was used to compare the responses of low and high frequency cell phone users.

Results

Cell phone use was significantly (p = 0.047) and negatively (β = −0.25) related to cardio respiratory fitness independent of sex, self-efficacy, and percent fat which were also significant predictors (p < 0.05). Interview data offered several possible explanations for this relationship. First, high frequency users were more likely than low frequency users to report forgoing opportunities for physical activity in order to use their cell phones for sedentary behaviors. Second, low frequency users were more likely to report being connected to active peer groups through their cell phones and to cite this as a motivation for physical activity. Third, high levels of cell phone use indicated a broader pattern of sedentary behaviors apart from cell phone use, such as watching television.

Conclusion

Cell phone use, like traditional sedentary behaviors, may disrupt physical activity and reduce cardiorespiratory fitness.

Keywords:
Mobile phones; VO2 peak; Sedentary behavior; Physical activity; Physical fitness; mHealth; Health