Thirty-three men and women in their 20s, all of whom used a cell phone and were familiar with texting, participated in a study reported in the journal Gait & Posture.
To assess walking abilities, participants completed a baseline test. Each participant was shown a target on the floor eight meters away. Then, by obstructing vision of the target and floor, participants were instructed to walk at a comfortable pace to the target and stop. They repeated the same walk three times. After each walk, the amount of time it took and the position where each participant stopped was measured.
“We were surprised to find that talking and texting on a cell phone were so disruptive to one’s gait and memory recall of the target location,” says Eric M. Lamberg, clinical associate professor of physical therapy at Stony Brook University and co-author of the study.Participants returned one week later. With vision occluded except for the ability to see a cell phone, one-third completed the exact same task; one-third completed the task while talking on a cell phone; and one-third completed the task while texting
The changes from the baseline blindfolded walk to testing indicated that participants who were using a cell phone to text while walking and those who used a cell phone to talk while walking were significantly slower, with 33 and 16 percent reductions in speed, respectively.
Moreover, participants who were texting while walking veered off course demonstrating a 61 percent increase in lateral deviation and 13 percent increase in distance traveled.