Walking While Texting Can Be Dangerous To Your Health

Conrad Earnest, PhD, FACSM Texas A&M University College Station, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Conrad Earnest, PhD, FACSM
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Earnest: The study presented here is a thesis project performed by Robbyne Smith and Sammy Licence, under the direction of Professor Conrad Earnest. We were curious to about the effects of walking, texting and doing both while simultaneously being cognitively distracted by common tasks – in our case a maths test.

Much of our curiosity was born from watching a YouTube video and reading an article on inattentional blindness where people did not notice a unicycling clown while using their mobile phones.


Several reports suggest that this type of pedestrian behavior leads to more pedestrian accidents, possibly increases the risk of tripping and increases riskier road crossing behavior due to a lack of attention.

While much of the literature has examined this question using a “straight line” model to look at walking characteristics and deviations within ones walking path, we elected to build an obstacle course that imitated common barriers that we measured in the city of Bath, England, that pedestrians might encounter during their walking day.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Earnest: Our main findings were that people slowed their walking speed, took more steps in their approach to common obstacles, and increased the height of their step to go up steps and over curbs.

Interestingly, we did not see an increase in what we called barrier contacts, which were used as a surrogate measure for tripping.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Earnest: We feel that the advice is fairly simplistic and one of common sense. If you walk, text, talk, listen to music and try to carry on other tasks you are going to deviate in your walking past and potentially trip over curbs, bump into other people and potentially cross roads when it is not safe.

On a more esoteric level we would like to suggest that people put their phones away and simply try to enjoy the walk.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Earnest: At the moment teens exhibit high levels of this behavior. However, some concern should be targeted toward aging groups who are increasing their mobile and smartphone usage. Overtime this will naturally included texting as the middle aged transition into old age (>65y). With age often comes a decrease in gait characteristics.

Future research should examine this question as old age now seems to be divided into tertiles of young, middle and old age. It seems reasonable that gait will change more as one progress through the aging process and is therefore important to examine as trips and falls and resulting injuries are much more challenging for the aged than the young.


Gait Pattern Alterations during Walking, Texting and Walking and Texting during Cognitively Distractive Tasks while Negotiating Common Pedestrian Obstacle

Sammy Licence, Robynne Smith, Miranda P. McGuigan, Conrad P. Earnest

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Conrad Earnest, PhD, FACSM (2015). Walking While Texting Can Be Dangerous To Your Health 

Last Updated on July 30, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD