5 reasons you should not exercise with headphones

Sure, music can motivate you, but is it good for your health to exercise with earphones?
Sure, music can motivate you, but is it good for your health to exercise with earphones?

Are you about to hit the road for a jog or go to the gym for a much-needed workout after the festive season?

Your favourite tunes might help motivate you, but be careful of those earphones – they might not be the best thing for your workout.

While studies have shown that listening to music can increase your motivation and performance during a workout, using headphones can compromise your hearing and safety by:

1. Affecting your balance and hearing

Headphones as such won’t affect your balance but, over time, loud music can cause problems with the vestibular system in your inner ear, which is responsible for your balance.

With compromised balance, exercise such as running (on the road or a treadmill) or cycling can become dangerous, especially if you exercise in areas congested with traffic, as you can fall and injure yourself. You may also damage your hearing if you regularly listen to music through earphones for a prolonged time.

2. Drowning out sounds around you

Hitting the road for a run? Listening to music while you run drowns out the sounds of oncoming vehicles or pedestrians and puts you at risk for accidents. If you absolutely cannot run without music, keep the volume low and be aware of your surroundings, especially when crossing busy roads or running on crowded pavements.

Looking to take part in road races this year? Take note: according to the Athletics South Africa (ASA) rules and regulations, the use of CD players, radio transmitters, iPods, cellphones or similar devices is strictly prohibited during a road race as they impair the safety of runners. You can actually be disqualified if the officials catch you doing this.

So If you are thinking of running more road races this year, you might want to train yourself to run on thoughts, not Nicki Minaj.

woman running in traffic

3. Restricting your movement

If you exercise with a pair of earphones that are uncomfortable or if the cord is not the right length, you can strain your neck when you perform weight or core exercises. Consider getting a pair of wireless headphones or make sure the cord is the right length if you cannot exercise without music.

women lifting weights at gym

4. Distracting you

Not only do earphones drown out the surrounding sounds and put us in danger of being knocked over on the road, but you might not be properly focusing on your workout if you drown out your thoughts with music. You can also be distracted while you fiddle with your phone or device to find the right song.

While music can be a helpful distraction for repetitive cardio on the treadmill or stationary bike, it can break your focus during weight-lifting sessions.

Do you often crank up the music to maximum volume? You might distract your fellow gym-goers if they can hear the sound blasting through your earphones. Be considerate.

woman on cellphone at gym

5. Putting you at risk for ear infections

When last did you clean your earphones? And how often do you just chuck them into your gym bag? Earphones can be a breeding ground for bacteria. According to research published in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Science, the use of headphones and earphones can create aural hygiene problems as earwax build-up and bacteria can lead to infections.

Clean your earphones often, store them in their own case, not inside your sweaty pair of shoes, and don’t share them with anyone. 

gym equipment

Image credits: iStock

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