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Thumbing one's nose at the quest for digital dexterity: Get fit for 4G with O2's thumbells


It had the scent of a PR stunt best filed under “B” for “balls”. But in the interests of the nation’s health (and my editor’s demands) I agreed to undergo a workout billed as a cure for a very modern affliction.

“Thumbells” would rescue me from the fate of 26 million people in the UK who have apparently suffered from phone-related thumb pain in the past five years. The originators of this “research” (small survey): O2, which accounts for a large part of my income and wants its customers to “get fit for 4G”.

It developed the device, which weighs basically nothing, and recruited “top hand specialist Nicola Goldsmith” to devise exercises. I do them. They’re  easy. But then I’m not among the “two thirds of Britons [who apparently] wish their thumbs were faster and more dexterous.” Is thumb health really such a pressing issue? I call the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which has no records of hospital admissions for injuries of this sort.

I ask friends, whose thumbs are fine. I call the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Its spokesperson, Sammy Margo, says there are cases of RSI and other injuries, particularly in Blackberry users. But, she adds, “thumbs are not designed to lift weights”.

Conclusion: thumbs are a bit vulnerable; thumbells are stupid.