Smartphones are changing how we walk

smartphone use

According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, smartphones are having a effect on our gaits and the speed with which we walk.

Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK found that smartphone use is making our walk slow. The team found that when people are using their phones, no matter how they are using it, they walk slowly. Scientists also found that people look less frequently and for less time at the obstacle on the ground. The relative amount of time spent looking at the obstacle reduced by up to 61 per cent, researchers said.

The team noted that phone users adopted a cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy, which involved lifting their lead foot higher and slower over the obstacle to reduce the risk of tripping.

Researchers found that writing a text results in the greatest adoptions in visual search behaviour and walking style, or gait, compared to reading texts or talking on a phone. When writing a text the lead foot is 18 per cent higher whilst clearing the obstacle compared to not using a phone, and is 40 per cent slower. Similar, but less extreme, results are seen when reading texts and talking on the phone, researchers said.

Writing a text may increase visual attention demands, as people look at the keypad to type as well as look at the screen to read what is being written, to ensure it is correct, they said.

Researchers investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look (visual search behaviour) and how they negotiate a floor-based obstacle placed along their walking path.

Participants wore a mobile eye tracker and motion analysis sensors and walked towards and then stepped over a floor-based object, which was a similar height to a roadside kerb, whilst writing a text, reading a text, talking on the phone, as well as without using a phone.

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