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Sportsmen and smartphones, how to avoid the effects of smartphone addiction

During workout - as in most moments of our daily lives - our smartphones always accompany us. They measure performance, play the workout soundtrack, count the number of kilometres and the route covered, etc. Tech companies design their products with the idea of engagement in mind, trying to retain our attention for longer.

Beware: smartphone addiction does exist and it should not be underestimated. Staying connected 24 hours a day too often becomes a real necessity.

In this editorial, with the occasion of the Christmas holidays and the opportunity they offer for a couple of phone-free weeks, let's explore some of the themes associated with smartphone addiction:

Symptoms of smartphone addiction

The insistent need to check your mobile phone at various times of the day - just before falling asleep but also as soon as you wake up, every time you get a new notification or you fear you've lost some - refers you to the idea of addiction.
smartphone addiction can make us feel alone, even in group
Among the most striking symptoms is the overwhelming need for obsessive cellular monitoring at very short intervals, almost every 5 minutes. Another rather frequent symptom affecting smartphone-dependent people is the tendency to fall asleep in the evening with the phone in their hands.

Among the worst habits: open your eyes in the morning and, even before realizing that you are awake, check notifications, emails, messages.

One of the most worrying symptoms is that you get to feel a real discomfort, mixed with anguish, when you do not have a phone with a load and an internet connection. All this is related to nomophobia, the uncontrolled fear of being disconnected from the contact with the mobile network.

Smartphone addiction, risks and consequences

Several studies have pointed out that we turn our attention to the smartphone more than a hundred times in a day. For many people this attention to the device remains constant even in moments dedicated to sport.
smartphones may not make us sleep at night
An incorrect use of smartphones, instead of encouraging human relationships, tends to isolate, making it more introverted and less prone to moments of socialization. In addition, smartphones addiction promotes the appearance of sleep disorders, combined with a pronounced propensity to make public what is private.

At a "practical" level, the repercussions can affect different areas, including the most common, such as at work and at school.

The obsessiveness in checking notifications and anything else that comes up from the phone leads to distraction, inattention and lack of focus, conditions that undermine productivity and quality of the work, be it professional or - why not – sports-related.

However, notifications are by far the most "dangerous".

A vibration, accompanied by sound, the screen that lights up or the LED that begins to flash, leads our brain to be continuously stimulated. A study published in the journal NeuroRegulation by Erik Peper, professor of health education at the University of San Francisco, explains that in these cases our brain reacts as with opioids. The user feels obliged to verify the message just received, with a reaction that triggers neurological connections similar to those found in patients who use opioid drugs for pain therapies, and therefore that develop over time a strong dependence on these substances.

Smartphone addiction, myths to be debunked

It is widely believed that teenagers and young people are almost completely absorbed by the small screens, but statistics show that it is not only the youngest who are fascinated by modern technology. On the contrary, the effects of social media and smartphones on adolescents are not so negative, as the study "Social Media, Social Life" points out.
Not only millennials show up signs of smartphone addiction
For digital natives, social media and smartphones have entered their lives as an established fact, not a disruptive novelty. This has probably allowed a more nuanced relationship with platforms: they trust these tools, but at the same time, they understand their pitfalls.

Measures to limit smartphone addiction

We do not have to fight against smartphones. We simply have to integrate better habits.

The first step for the digital diet, in the direction of a more correct use of the device, is to become aware of the type of relationship you have with the object in question.

In general, it is recommended to establish rules for the use of the phone, providing moments of "disconnection". For example, it would be sufficient to try to turn off the phone at night, turning it on again only half an hour after waking up in the morning, placing it in a different room when you are in the company of other people.

The same is true in sports: it is not always essential to train with your smartphone on your body. Let's try alternating "monitored" training sessions with more "free" ones, sometimes leaving the device in the gym locker or in a different room from the one we are training in. Maybe we won't know exactly how many meters we have covered or how many minutes we have been under stress, but at the same time we will benefit from it.

Sometimes, the real sound of silence is the best soundtrack to work out
Most importantly, disable notifications. The advice is generally valid, even more so during training. Even if we try to ignore them, notifications are distracting elements.

Smartphone addiction is a phenomenon you need to be able to detect, control and manage. After all, being able to establish precise times of use of this medium, will only benefit our physical and mental health.

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