Walking and texting challenge us to pay attention simultaneously to two different activities. As with driving and texting, the dangers are real. But walking is more physically demanding than driving, requiring coordination on many levels.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia found these effects of peripatetic texting:
- There is a distortion of gait and walking form, which even unintentionally, causes a more upright, rigid body position.
- Gait patterns change; texters take shorter steps at slower pace.
- With an unchanging head position, eyes on the screen and chins bent toward chests, their neck and lower back joints have less range of motion.
- When arms stop swinging loosely and are bent and locked into place, there are mechanical constraints on the upper body and midsection.
- As pelvic joints stiffen, their leg motions become jerkier.
- Walking a straight line is difficult; texters’ feet veer to the side with almost every step.
In summary: texters walk ‘like robots’. This research suggests that their bodies and brains have prioritized the texting over the natural movements in walking. Little wonder that poles and other pedestrians get in the way.
Adapted from “The Art of Texting While Walking” by Gretchen Reynolds.