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Texting Alters the Way We Walk

Feb 15, 2014 08:49 AM EST

Texting while walking could be dangerous. According to a new study, texting on your phone while walking alters your body position and can negatively affect balance.

In the study, published recently in PLOS One, Siobhan Schabrun and colleagues from the University of Queensland wanted to investigate text messaging, which has become an increasingly popular form of communication since the first text was sent in 1992. However, little is known about how this technology impacts our lives.

Enlisting 26 healthy individuals, the researchers asked each person to walk at a comfortable pace while doing one of the following three tasks: walking without the use of a phone, reading a text on a mobile phone or typing a text on a mobile phone. The team then used a three-dimensional movement analysis system to compare the results, according to a press release announcing the findings.

The team found that texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modified the body movements of the text subjects while walking. As compared to normal walking, participants walked more slowly, deviated more from a straight line and moved their neck less when writing text than reading text. While their arms and head moved with their chest to reduce the relative motion of the phone to facilitate reading and texting, the movement of their head increased, which could negatively impact the balance system.

According to researchers, texting or reading on a mobile phone could pose a safety risk to pedestrians needing to navigate obstacles or cross a road.

Schabrun added, "Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, on your mobile phone affects your ability to walk and balance. This may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time."

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