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Doing Life Together

Girl textingIt’s a common sight. People texting and walking.

I admit. I get annoyed when I am walking in a big city and someone walks into me because they are texting on their phone. Everything inside of me screams, “Look Up! Pay attention! You are a danger on the street!” But are they?

Ahhh, the pros and cons of texting while walking seem to be gaining research interest. So let’s begin with some good news.

A group of researchers studied the effects of mobile phone texting while subjects walked and negotiated barriers simulating pedestrian traffic. What they noticed was that the people in the study changed the way they walked.

Specifically, they shortened their step length, reduced their step frequency, lengthen the time during which both feet were in contact with the ground and increased obstacle clearance height. In other words, they adapted their gait (walk) to the challenges of the environment caused by their distraction of being on the phone. Their changes kept them from walking into people or objects. It did take the distracted walkers longer to get to where they were going than the “normal” walkers. But they were more cautious. I guess slow and steady was at work here.

I know, it seems counterintuitive I feel like I am running in to more people who are distracted on their phones. And it is only one study on a small group of people. Others studies have observed people weaving, losing their balance, etc.

The downside: Posture is affected by texting while walking. Our bodies are in a hunched position while our hands are texting away. This impacts balance. Your head down tends to make you weave more and lose balance. It can pull the spine out of alignment causing neck and should pain. Some have dubbed this, “text neck.”

So the jury is still out. Meanwhile I suggest more looking up. If nothing else, a good posture is worth the change. And is anything really that important that you risk running in to someone on the sidewalk? A little more courtesy could do us all some good.

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