Your thumb travels the equivalent of two marathons each year, just from scrolling on your mobile device
By Divina Ramirez // Sep 27, 2021

The average person's thumb travels the equivalent of two marathons every year scrolling through social media. Those are the findings of a recent analysis by ilk agency, a marketing agency based in England.


The agency created an interactive mobile application called "Thumb Run." It features a cartoon thumb dressed in running gear making its way through a racecourse in the style of an arcade game from the 1980s. The application helps to visualize the distance that the average person's thumb covers when scrolling.

It's no secret that people spend a lot of time on their smartphones, said Rob Jones, head of the public relations and social media department at Ilk agency. But the sheer distance covered by the average person's thumb scrolling over just one year is simply staggering, added Jones.

He said they wanted to illustrate how big a role social media plays in people's lives, whether that be as a source of entertainment and important information or as a means to stay connected with family and friends.

Excessive scrolling can lead to "scroller thumb"

Last year, the United Kingdom's communications regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), released a report that looked at what people in the U.K. were doing online. It found that the average adult spends roughly 49 minutes per day scrolling through social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The agency made calculations based on that estimate and found that the average person's thumb travels nearly 52 miles every year just scrolling through social media. That's just under two marathons (52.4 miles).

This finding is troubling because excessive smartphone use has been known to cause "scroller thumb." Scroller thumb, also known as "texting thumb," is when the thumb cramps, becomes inflamed or gets stuck in a bent or uncomfortable position.

Scroller thumb isn't normal because the repetitive movement of the thumb joint can cause pain and eventually cause arthritis or joint inflammation. (Related: 14 Natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.)

"Basically, the tendon in the thumb becomes inflamed as it rubs repeatedly against the tunnel surrounding it," said Eugene Tsai, a specialist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. That inflammation could lead to thumb pain around the knuckle. People with scroller thumb might also experience a clicking sensation when bending their thumb.

Scroller thumb is typically associated with smaller smartphones. Larger smartphones and tablets are normally associated with pain in the fingers and the wrists, added Tsai.

How to limit smartphone use

It can be difficult to resist scrolling mindlessly through social media every day. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to limit your smartphone use and avoid scroller thumb, such as:

  • Track usage – Ironically, you can limit your use of mobile applications with another application. There are some applications meant to limit your smartphone use, especially if you often get distracted by it while working.
  • Delete applications – Certain applications, like Facebook and Instagram, are designed to keep you scrolling by giving you an endless feed of information. This makes it easy to lose track of time. Get rid of applications that take up your time the most.
  • Practice mindfulness exercises – Social media can be extremely addicting to the point that you feel real, euphoric sensations whenever you get a notification, such as when someone likes a photo you shared. Try to meditate or do yoga to keep yourself grounded if think you're getting addicted.
  • Use the actual tools instead of the applications – Smartphones are convenient because they have everything, from calculators to alarm clocks. But people usually get derailed and end up scrolling for hours on social media after just checking their phones to look at the time or take digital notes. Try to use the physical versions of useful applications. Hang a calendar on the wall, wear a wristwatch or write on a real notepad.

Learn more about the harmful effects of excessive smartphone use at

Sources include:

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