Last Updated on December 15, 2020
From P.E. class in elementary school to the 5am spin class that sounded like a better idea the night before, exercise is an important part of our lives. For some, it’s more of a lifestyle.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
Benefits of exercise include improved physical and mental health, increased energy, lowered risk of chronic disease, and enhanced sleep quality.
However, like sleep, exercise is one of the first facets of health to get pushed to the back burner. Busy schedules and many responsibilities, general tiredness or lack of motivation are usually to blame for this unfortunate circumstance.
Something else that might be getting in the way, or even affecting your athletic performance — the technology you use everyday.
EMF Radiation and Body Performance
There are many connections between technology use and body performance, with restful sleep also a contributing factor.
EMF radiation research shows many different effects on your body, including hormone shifts, cell damage and stress, and cognitive effects. These can all either impact athletic performance or simply make exercise less likely to happen.
On the other hand, evidence shows that physical activity may be a way to counteract some of the negative effects of EMF radiation. A study from 2019 found that in rats, 28 days of moderate exercise training led to a reduction of the damaging effects of radiation.
Yes, exercise is good for many reasons, including reduced effects of EMF radiation. What is now an issue is that the ever-growing amount of EMFs in our environments are making you less likely to make gains and optimize your health. Adding to that, our devices continue to distract us, drawing us away from working out to make our bodies healthy, strong, and resilient.
EMF exposure can have many physiological changes such as increasing the number of free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are responsible for oxidative damage and DNA fragmentation. Additionally, EMFs over-activate Voltage-Gated Calcium Channels (VGCCs), which help release neurotransmitters and hormones.
Exercising is important because it helps regulate different hormones in your body, including cortisol, testosterone, prolactin growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormones.
If you are looking to make strength gains, your body must produce more testosterone and growth hormones. These are naturally released while exercising, but there’s some bad news: EMFs alter the natural secretion of hormones within your body.
In addition to VGCCs being overactive in cells, EMF radiation acts as Endocrine Disruptors (EDs). EMF radiation is not technically classified as an ED because it is not a chemical, but it can cause similar effects. To dive more specifically into ways the EMFs disturb your hormones, check out this blog discussing the endocrine system.
While exercising is beneficial for maintaining homeostasis, by exposing yourself to EMFs, you negate the good that exercising does for maintaining the natural levels of hormones within our bodies.
Along with hormones, vitamins are essential to the recovery of our bodies. Vitamin C, B vitamins, CoQ10, and Omega 3s are the vitamins most important for recuperation. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect muscles from free radicals—but remember how EMF radiation increases the amount of free radicals? This can affect your vitamin availability.
Certain B vitamins are energy producers throughout the body, while others help with the creation of new cells and the repairing of damaged cells. Muscles need these to help repair muscle tears and grow new muscle. CoQ10 helps fight against inflammation in the body. When working out, your body may become inflamed due to the stress caused from the workout. Omega 3s also help with inflammation, in addition to improving bone repair and muscle soreness.
One study examined how vitamin levels in guinea pigs were altered when exposed to a 900-MHz electromagnetic field. No surprise here, but the vitamin levels were altered by the EMF radiation. Since your vitamin levels are disturbed by EMF radiation, this may lead to unsatisfactory results.
Sleep and Recovery
Sleep is imperative to body performance and recovery. During the night, your body goes through two different sleep cycles: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. REM sleep occurs in 90 to 120 minute cycles throughout the night. This cycle of sleep is important for the brain—according to a Harvard study, REM sleep is key for the synthesizing of memories and emotions, an activity that factors into learning and higher-level thought. Deficiencies in REM sleep have been attributed to slower cognitive and social processing, problems with memory, and difficulty concentrating.
Non-REM sleep, also referred to as deep sleep, plays an important role in physical recovery, hormone regulation, and growth. Deep sleep is critical to physical health. And without an adequate amount, you may start feeling sick (even if you are not actually sick) and may struggle with weight gain.
For the most part, Americans’ sleep quality and quantity has continued to decrease over recent years.
Because feelings of sleepiness continue to invade peoples’ lives, exercising is seeing a direct impact. 25% of people say when they feel sleepy at least one day a week, they will not exercise. That percentage continues to increase as the numbers of sleepy days increase, peaking at 64% of people forgoing exercise when they feel sleepy 5 to 7 days a week.
Sleep deficiency has been linked to an increased risk in obesity. And interestingly enough, a rise in obesity is also linked with a rise in screen time.
Health experts around the world continue to emphasize the importance of sleep on optimal body performance. One German study looked at elite football players and how sleep affects their athletic performance and recovery. On days where the athletes had night games, they found that following evening matches, the footballers’ had less sleep and thus their perceptual recovery decreased.
Another study found reduced sleep quality and quantity may lead to autonomic nervous system imbalance, which may mimic the signs of overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome, also known as burnout, occurs when athletes do not have enough recovery time, resulting in fatigue, declining performance despite increased training, mood changes, decreased motivation, frequent injuries, and at times, infections.
EMFs and technology in general are part of the sleep problem.
People are sacrificing sleep to spend more time working, browsing social media, or watching the latest Netflix series. Screen time continues to rise. A MarketWatch article stated that in 2018, adult Americans spend 11 hours a day looking at some form of technology. A majority of that time usually includes working, and adults are still spending the majority of waking hours with a screen in front of them. And in 2020, with Covid-19 forcing people to stay home and isolate from others, screen time has peaked.
The technological invasion in our daily lives has a direct impact on melatonin secretion and the circadian rhythm. The body’s circadian rhythm used to be in tune with the rising and setting of the sun. However, blue light, and light in general, has thrown off this pattern. In recent decades, adult Americans are on average sleeping 6.8 hours. While that is close to the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night, it is down over an hour compared to 1942 when adults were sleeping an average of 7.9 hours per night.
Our brains process the blue light emitted from digital screens and are tricked into thinking it’s daytime, which impacts melatonin secretion and levels. When the body’s natural rhythm is out of sync, it can lead to excessive tiredness during the day, and irregular or unsatisfying sleep at night.
EMF radiation, even without digital screens, can still influence sleep by altering brain waves and cerebral blood flow, consequently affecting our sleep rhythm. One study examined changes in subjects’ sleep EEG readings after being exposed to EMFs for 30 minutes prior to going to sleep. The results showed that even this short window of exposure led to differences in time spent in REM and deep sleep compared to those who abstained from tech before bed.
Without proper sleep, you simply will not become healthier or stronger. Sleep is a time for your body to recover, so make sure you are taking the proper steps to ensure a restful night’s rest. Check out the end of this blog to learn how to better your sleep, and ultimately, optimize your physical and mental gains.
Technology While Exercising
Advances in technology have helped people workout smarter and harder. But, with this influx of technology into yet another sphere of our lives, have we yet again overlooked its invisible, but very real, negative effects?
First, let’s look at Bluetooth headphones. AirPods seemingly became ubiquitous overnight, and other brands such as Bose, Samsung, and Beats by Dre have also entered the market with their own products. Bluetooth headphones are convenient because they offer wire-free movement. But, because of the absence of wires, there is an increase in the amount of wireless frequencies…A.K.A. EMF radiation.
In order for Bluetooth headphones to work, their radio transmitters are located very close to your head—some (i.e. AirPods) are located directly in your ears. This means EMFs are being directly transmitted into the most sensitive organ of the body: the brain. Learn more about the harmful effects of Bluetooth headphones here. Spoiler alert: EMFs near the brain are not a good thing.
Fitness trackers are another new type of technology that have become more prevalent. According to an early 2020 Pew Research report, 21% of American adults regularly wear a fitness tracker or smart watch. Wearable tech is a growing fad because it can provide real time biofeedback. While we agree that some wearable tech is very beneficial for tracking our patterns and movements to learn healthier habits, it might not be necessary, especially for long-term 24/7 use.
In addition to the added “bees in the room,” or EMF sources you are exposed to, wearable tech continues to add to the information overload we experience in our daily lives. A Harvard Business Review article from 2009 cited different studies highlighting how information overload can negatively affect a person’s well-being, decision making, innovation, and productivity. Those studies are over a decade old—imagine what they would have to say about it now.
In general, having more technology involved with our workouts has increased distracted exercise. People are getting hurt simply walking and texting—think about what could go wrong if you’re running on a treadmill or lifting weights while looking at your phone. When you’re not present during your workout, you’re less likely to have the best workout possible, limiting your growth potential.
Instead of turning to mindless distractions while working out, use exercise as a mindful distraction from aspects of your daily life.
By taking an hour of your day away from technology to better yourself physically, your mental health will also be improved. Your body will also get a break from the harmful effects of EMF radiation.
If you are still keen to integrate technology into your exercise routine (there is nothing like music to set your pace!), there are safer alternatives that can still help keep you motivated during your workouts and in tune with your health.
Some fitness trackers allow you to disable Bluetooth while wearing the tracker—you just have to turn Bluetooth on once a day to download the data from the tracker to your phone. By turning off Bluetooth while wearing the trackers, it reduces the wireless EMFs emitted, helping to lessen the amount of overall radiation we encounter daily. Additionally, though it may not look as cool as wearing Bluetooth headphones, transition back to wired headphones or air tube headphones, or listen to music from a speaker that is a safe distance away from you.
Optimize Your Health by Decreasing your EMF Exposure and Technology Usage
Use your exercise time as a time for digital detox. The time you dedicate to making your body stronger in the gym can also be time spent making your body healthier by removing EMF radiation.
Create a sleep sanctuary. Bedrooms have become part-office, part-entertainment rooms. Instead of working from your laptop in bed, watching television, or playing the next Candy Crush level, save those activities for other parts of the house. By removing technology from your bedroom, it will significantly decrease the amount of EMF radiation you are exposed to at night, helping improve your sleep. If you need to keep your phone or tablet in your room for the alarm clock feature, turn it on Airplane Mode to disengage the radio antennas and eliminate most of the radiation. And if you need to look at a screen after sun down, wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses to help mitigate the effects of the blue light.
Make sure your diet is rich with vitamins and antioxidants. Nutrient-dense foods do not have a lot of sugar, sodium, starches, or bad fat. Fruits and vegetables are naturally chocked full of the good stuff. Researchers from the Imperial College of London found that just ten servings will lead to lowered risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death. Lean meats (chicken and turkey), fish, whole grains, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds also have high levels of nutrients. In general, raw and unprocessed food is far better for you than anything from a wrapper or box.
Ditch the AirPods and other Bluetooth headphones. Instead, use EMF-Free Air Tube Headphones or Earbuds. By delivering sound through the hollow air tube, these products eliminate the radiation from reaching your head, while still providing a quality listening experience.
Spend more time outside. Because of its nature (yes, pun intended), nature is practically EMF-free. Try taking your workout outdoors. Instead of running on the treadmill, try out some new jogging paths. Visit your local park where you could do your HIIT workout or yoga practice. There are even outdoor lifting gyms that have all the weights you need for some serious gains. Understandably, you might not be able to do all workouts outside. But even if you go outside once or twice a week instead of exercising indoors, it will make a difference. Little changes can add up to big results.
EMF radiation can directly affect our body performance and recovery through changes in hormones, cell energy, and cognition, and can indirectly affect our body performance and recovery through sleep impairment. However, all three of these are quite interdependent, and the less EMF you are exposed to, the better off your sleep, your body, and your overall health will be.
Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia.
Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.