A new Australian study has confirmed what most of us already know: texting on your mobile phone makes you walk like a short-sighted drunkard. Scientists have found that writing messages on the move drastically alters a person's posture, gait, balance and ability to walk in a straight line, which may pose additional risks to pedestrian safety. Face, meet lamppost.
Texting/walking picture from Shutterstock
In a small scale study, researchers from the University of Queensland analysed the way mobile phone use affected body movement in 26 individuals. All participants had at least three months experience with their current smartphone and normal, healthy postures.
The participants' movements were monitored as they read and texted identical messages on their mobile phones while walking in a straight line at a comfortable pace. Participants were free to text in their normal manner (one or two hands, phone held in portrait or landscape, etc.)
The researchers found that phone use causes significant alterations to the body's movement while walking; particularly when inputting text messages. When participants were writing text, they walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and moved their neck less, which can adversely affect the balance system.
Evaluation of gait performance revealed that individuals walk slower, demonstrate greater absolute medial-lateral step deviation, increase rotation ROM of the head with respect to the global reference frame, walk with a flexed head position, reduce neck ROM, and move the thorax and head more in-phase with reduced phase variability, during texting and reading than unconstrained walking.
The report concludes that texting or reading on the move can pose additional safety risks for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road. Well, duh.
Have you ever had an accident while walking-and-texting? Has anyone ever bumped into you while distractedly using their phone? Share your stories in the comments section below.