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Texting Disrupts Balance and Walking

Update Date: Jan 22, 2014 06:43 PM EST

Texting on the street can put you in danger because it alters your balance and changes the way you walk, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the way texting affected body movement while walking in 26 healthy participants.

Participants walked at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of approximately 8.5 miles while doing one of three tasks: walking without the use of a phone, reading a text on a mobile phone or typing a text on a mobile phone.

Researchers evaluated the participants' body movements using a three-dimensional movement analysis system.

The findings revealed that texting and reading texts altered the body's movement while walking.

When participants were writing text, they walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and moved the neck less than when reading a text. While the arms and head moved with the chest to reduce relative motion of the phone to help with reading and texting, movement of the head increased. Researchers said the increased movement of the head could negatively impact a person's balance system.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that texting or reading on a mobile phone can be dangerous for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road.

"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," lead researcher Siobhan Schabrun of the University of Queensland said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE

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