We all understand the dangers of texting while driving, but should we also worry about texting while walking? A study out of the University of Queensland found that texting on our cell phone while walking can have a negative affect on both our posture and balance.
“This may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time,” lead researcher from the University of Queensland, Dr. Siobhan Schabrun, said in a statement.
Schabrun and her colleagues from the Australian university recruited 26 healthy individuals to study the effects of cell phone use on body movement while walking. Each participant was asked to walk in a straight line for a distance of 8.5 meters while performing one of three tasks: reading a text via their cell phone, typing a text via their cell phone, or walking without the use of their cell phone.
When participants were writing a text and walking, they were more likely to walk slower, swerve while trying to walk in a straight line, and restrict their neck movement. The same effects were noticed when participants were reading a text and walking, but at a smaller degree. While reading or writing a text, each participant’s head increased movement, which had a negative impact on balance.
“Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, on your mobile phone affects your ability to walk and balance,” Schabrun added.
The research team headed up by Schabrun also pointed out that reading or sending a text while walking could pose a safety risk for pedestrians crossing the street or navigating obstacles. A recent study out of Ohio State University found that 1,500 emergency room hospitalizations in the U.S. were caused by cell phone use while walking.
Injuries taken from a national database tracking emergency room visits from 2004 to 2010, included a pedestrian who was hit by a car while talking on their cell phone (resulting in a sprained elbow and spine), a man who lacerated his brow after walking into a pole, and a boy who bruised his chest after falling a few feet off of a bridge.
"Stop walking when you're going to take a cellphone call or text. Don't do two things at once," lead researcher from OSU, Professor Jack Nasar, told HealthDay.
Schabrun SM, van den Hoorn W, Moorcroft A, Greenland C, Hodges PW. Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety. PLoS One. 2014.