Texting, Talking on Cellphone Slows Walking Pace: Study

Findings may shed light on ways to improve functional walking in physical therapy patients

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SATURDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Talking on a cellphone or texting while walking slows you down and makes it difficult to walk in a straight line, researchers report.

Their preliminary research included 33 men and women in their 20s whose walking abilities were tested when they weren't using a mobile device and when they were talking on a cellphone or texting.

The participants' walking speeds were 33 percent slower while texting and 16 percent slower while talking on a cellphone. In addition, texting resulted in a 61 percent increase in lateral (side-to-side) deviation while walking, which added to total travel distance, the Stony Brook University researchers found.

The findings, published in the Jan. 5 online edition of the journal Gait & Posture, suggest that cellphone use and texting affect the working memory in areas of the brain that control executive function and attention and are necessary for walking, said study co-author Eric Lamberg, in a university news release.

"We are using the findings to help physical therapy patients improve true functional walking while making them aware that some tasks may affect their gait and/or certain aspects of memory recall," noted Lamberg, a clinical associate professor in the physical therapy department at the School of Health Technology and Management.

Using a cellphone while walking reflects a "real-world" activity that recovering patients are likely to engage in early in their recovery process, he explained.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about the hazards of texting while on the move.

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