Texting a pain? Take your thumbs to the gym

British phone carrier O2 wants to make sure you can handle all the texting you'll be doing

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Casey Gutteridge / Hope & Glory PR

A "thumbell" in action

Do your thumbs even lift? One telephone carrier thinks they should.

O2, a UK network service provider, has developed “thumbells” — dumbbells for your thumbs — and they’re currently testing them with customers and staff for wider release.

Why the sudden interest in prehensile health? O2 is unveiling a new, faster, 4G network this summer, which should enable subscribers to surf, tweet, and text at even higher rates.

However, the company was concerned that users might not have buff enough thumbs to take advantage of all this capability.

The research backs up O2’s worries. According to a survey commissioned by the company, 43% of smartphones users have experienced thumb pain in the last five years and over half complain that their thumb gets tired when they use their smartphones.

Rather than release faster internet speeds on an unprepared public, O2 partnered with BMI Healthcare, the UK’s largest independent private healthcare provider, to find a thumb-pain solution.


The result of this collaboration has been a new “Fit for 4G” campaign featuring the 2.3 ounce thumbells.  And while this whole idea may seem like an elaborate prank, O2 assured ABC News that it is perfectly serious. “With our 4G network launching this summer, it’s a bit late for an April Fools!” says David Johnson, general manager of devices for O2.

The carrier also has some serious pedigree behind its initiative. Nicola Goldsmith, who developed various thumbell workouts for O2, has been a hand therapist for 23 years and is the clinical lead for hand therapy at BMI.

O2 isn’t the first to use better finger health to promote its mobile phone plans. A Virgin mobile ad featured groups of children and adults doing thumb pushups and other exercises to promote a deal that offered 1000 free texts a month. However, they likely are the first carrier to take this idea into reality.

So how can you get your hands (and thumbs) on these weights? Right now, O2 is giving out thumbells to those who send a Vine of their thumbs working out to the company’s official twitter account. Asked whether the exercise equipment would see a wider release, O2 wouldn’t dismiss the possibility. “The trials have been overwhelmingly positive,” says Gavin Lewis, who does public relations for the carrier. “We are not ruling it out.”