Well, this is what happens when you let your fingers do the walking. A new study shows that texting or reading email messages while walking throws off balance and posture, increasing the risk of injury.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia studied the movement patterns of 26 people as they walked normally and then as they walked with their eyes glued to the screen on their smart phones. When walkers were texting, they ambled more slowly. They moved their necks less, their heads more and hunched their shoulders forward. And big shocker (though not for people walking behind them) they also deviated from a straight path.
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Lead researcher, Siobhan Schabrun said that the way texters walk reminded her of elderly robots.
"They lock their arms, trunk and head together all in aid of keeping the phone steady in front of their eyes," she explained. "Previous studies on older populations shows that this type of more rigid posture puts you at greater risk of falling."
Even those who simply scanned the screen with their eyes were more likely to wander off in the wrong direction compared with someone who strolled hands free, the study found.
Schabrun said there is little data on how many people are injured while texting. However, one 2013 Ohio State University study noted that more than 1,500 people were treated in emergency rooms for cell phone-related incidents in 2012, up from just 559 clumsy texting incidences in 2004.
Schabrun said it was also interesting to note that 35 percent of her study's subjects reported having an accident while texting including trips, falls, collisions with other people and walking into an obstacle.
The biggest potential danger, Schabrun observed, occurs when people text or read messages in heavily trafficked areas or near train tracks.
"People think they are going in a straight line but they aren't," she pointed out.
To avoid injury, Schabrun's advice is simple: Don't walk and text.
"But if you do need to text, move to one side, stop, then text," she advised. "When you are done you can continue walking."
You'll be safer, she said. And other pedestrians will thank you for it.
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