Is It Ever Smart To Multitask While Working Out?

Our lives are getting busier and, with pocket-sized computers at our disposal at all times, multitasking has never been easier or more tempting. Whether you answer emails while walking on the treadmill or scroll through social media while you plank, your phone may have become as much of a workout staple as your water bottle.


We get it — fitting a workout into a packed schedule can be tough. Maybe you have a break in your WFH day, but you still need to be on top of your Slack messages. Perhaps you hit the gym in the evening, but need to be ready for phone calls and texts about chaos from the kids at home.

However, multitasking during your exercises doesn't come without its dangers and drawbacks. As Wondrium notes, staying busy is not the same as staying productive...and you might be best served by unplugging to get the most out of a safe and fulfilling workout.

Multitasking can be dangerous for your health

Although multitasking can feel like you're achieving more things at once, the quality of your work takes a significant hit. According to Harvard Health, multitasking increases your risk of making mistakes and missing important cues. When you're operating exercise equipment, these mistakes and lost signals can be especially dangerous.


Time reported that sending text messages while exercising impacted balance by 45% — a startling statistic that could easily lead to injuries. Exercise and cell phones are a dangerous combination, especially given that cell phones can cause injuries, even without the added pressure of a workout. A 2020 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery found that head and neck injuries as a result of cell phones have been on the rise. Combining this risk with exercise is a recipe for disaster.

Not only do cell phones and other tools for multitasking impact the safety of your workout, but they can diminish the quality. According to Women's Health Magazine, the intensity of phone users' workouts was much lower than those who put their phones away. As your brain tries to manage your exercise and incoming notifications, your body slows down.


Safely multitasking while working out

Despite our best efforts, it may not always be possible to fully unplug and enjoy your workout tech-free. If you need to have your phone or laptop handy in order to get some movement in, there are solutions! At-home workout videos can guide you through exercises — reminding you of proper form.


There's also equipment designed with multitasking in mind. Since the work-from-home revolution, employees everywhere have been devising tricks to get their steps in. Among the most popular choices have been treadmill desks — walking pads that transform a standing desk into a fitness challenge.

The phrase has garnered over 2 billion views on TikTok alone, with creators sharing their favorite hacks and walking routines. Because many of these walking pads are built with multitasking in mind, they're a bit safer than bringing your phone to the gym. They're equipped with lower speeds and allow you to stand upright at a computer while moving your body.

Of course, treadmill desks shouldn't completely replace all other forms of exercise. Experts tell Health that, when possible, you're still better served by walking outdoors. When walking at your desk, you're missing out on Vitamin D and the varied terrain that increases your heart rate. Still, these walking pads are a great place to start — and a safer space if you can't give up your multitasking quite yet.