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Walking-and-texting impairs posture – and walking, and texting

Figure 1My yoga teacher, Annie Carpenter, frequently includes movement directions in class that counteract a modern epidemic she calls "text head." (Look down at your phone and notice your posture.) So I was delighted to come across a post today on PopSci.com highlighting a recent study on the very subject, citing many reasons you should bring your head into alignment with your spine right now.

Researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia used motion-capture technology to study how reading or typing with a mobile phone while walking affects the gait. The 26 participants walked in a straight line for approximately 8.5 meters.

PopSci reports that, "No surprise, the people reading or texting were slower, deviated from a straight line more, and on top of everything, didn't text very accurately."

From the study:

Gait performance was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system. In comparison with normal waking, when participants read or wrote text messages they walked with: greater absolute lateral foot position from one stride to the next; slower speed; greater rotation range of motion (ROM) of the head with respect to global space; the head held in a flexed position; more in-phase motion of the thorax and head in all planes, less motion between thorax and head (neck ROM); and more tightly organized coordination in lateral flexion and rotation directions. While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM than reading text. Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system.

The authors note, "Changes in gait associated with mobile phone use may undermine functional walking and impact on safety in common pedestrian environments." So, keep your head up!

Previously: Toilets of the future, and the art of squatting, Exploring the use of yoga to improve the health and strength of bonesSpinal bracing for adolescents with scoliosis and “Barefoot” running craze still going strong
Photo by Schabrun et. al

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