Texting While Walking Does Very Silly Things To Your Gait

An homage to the iconic Monty Python sketch 'The Ministry of Funny Walks.' IT@c/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Ministry of Silly Walks has a lot less work to do in the digital age. According to a new study, published in the Journal of Motor Biology, using your mobile phone while walking gives you a weirdly rigid yet exaggerated gait.

Scientists from the University of Delaware attached over 60 movement-detecting reflective patches on 22 participants and asked them to strut their stuff on a treadmill while attempting to dial a number on a phone.

Their results showed the phone users had an increased stride width, increased pointing of the toes, and decreased movement of the knees and ankles. All in all, a very silly-sounding walk. Although it might sound a bit odd, it seems to do the trick. The researchers found that walking like this allowed the participants to maintain their non-typing walking speed while keeping up a high level of accuracy and rate of typing on their phone.

The study authors believe this slightly bizarre way of walking is actually just a more cautious manner of walking, subconsciously used to account for our lack of wider awareness when we're glued to our smartphones.

“Our results suggest that when dialing a phone while walking, healthy adults adopt a more cautious gait pattern, which may limit the risk of falling,“ said first author Kelly Seymour of the department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware to The Telegraph.

“In today's fast-paced world, individuals are often rushed and do not choose to slow their gait speed, and even if they do, they remain more likely to fall while walking and performing another task simultaneously than while only walking," added Seymour. “An increase in step width is characteristic of cautious gait, correlated with fear of falling.” 

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