Skip to main content

Texting while walking can make us look a bit silly, study shows

honolulu texting walking street ban distracted
SV Luma / Shutterstock
Apparently some of us look a bit funny when we text and walk at the same time. It’s not quite Ministry of Silly Walks, but the contrast with our regular walking style is apparently stark enough for researchers to note the fact.

The change in movement is apparently a protective measure to help us avoid bashing into obstacles or tripping over steps, and is evolving as we get increasingly used to texting while walking, results of a study showed.

Conducted by Bath University in the U.K. and A&M University in Texas, the joint research team presented 30 participants aged between 18 and 50 with a walking course containing obstacles such as bollards, curbs, steps, and people. They were asked to navigate it three times: once while walking without a phone; a second time while texting and walking; and a final time while while figuring out a series of simple math questions as they navigated the course.

It won’t come as a great surprise to learn that when completing the final two courses, the “cognitively distracted” participants needed more time to reach the end. The research showed that while doing so, the participants slowed down and took smaller steps, adopting a kind of shuffling style of movement in contrast with the larger, more confident strides you tend to see with people who’re actually looking where they’re going. Distractions also decreased the participants’ ability to walk in a straight line, the researchers found.

Besides slowing their pace, the participants also made “large, exaggerated movements to negotiate crowds and compensate for their diminished vision.” In other words, they lifted their legs more than necessary to ensure they cleared a curb, or made bigger steps to get around a bollard or when confronted by an approaching person.

Commenting on the findings, the University of Bath’s Polly McGuigan said the study’s participants had been “very good at adapting the way they walk to limit their risk of injury, and there were very few occasions when a participant hit an obstacle,” explaining “this may be because many of the participants had grown up using a mobile phone and are very used to multi-tasking.”

Despite the study’s findings, it’s clear from headlines over recent years that many of us still lack the skills to perform text-walking with the necessary with grace and style, while there’s also the small matter of possible death to consider. We may be getting better at fiddling with our smartphones while on the move, though the advice – for your own safety as well as the safety of others – is to leave the practice till motionless moments rather than when you’re strolling about.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Get an unlocked iPhone 14 Pro Max for under $900 with this deal
The iPhone 14 Pro Max next to a green pepper.

Backmarket has one of the best iPhone deals at the moment with the iPhone 14 Pro Max available for $887, reduced from $1,099. The sizeable saving is in part thanks to this particular iPhone 14 Pro Max being a refurbished model. Don't let that put you off though. When buying through Backmarket, it's a verified refurbished model that has been through many testing processes to guarantee it's in fantastic condition. It comes with a one-year warranty too along with a free 30-day return window if you're concerned. Sound good? Here's what you need to know about the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Why you should buy the iPhone 14 Pro Max
Back when it launched, we considered the iPhone 14 Pro Max to be "nearly perfect". It has a huge 6.7-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2796 x 1290. Up to 2,000 nits of brightness are possible in the right situation while there's also a 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate to ensure silky smooth browsing and scrolling.

Read more
Google just announced the Pixel Watch 2. Is it any good?
All three colors of the Google Pixel Watch 2 lined up together.

Google lifted the lid on the Google Pixel Watch 2 at a packed event that also witnessed the introduction of its Google Pixel 8 series phones. Aesthetically, barely anything has changed, which is mostly welcome because the Pixel-branded smartwatch stands out with its sloping glass design. But there are changes under the hood that actually push it ahead of the competition in a few ways.

But will all of this come together for a cohesive smartwatch? Here's everything we know so far.

Read more
The Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are official — and more expensive
Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in pink and white.

Google has finally announced its latest smartphones, the Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro. The announcement about the successors to the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro was made today at the Made by Google event in New York City.

But were the new Pixels worth the wait? And are they worth the new higher price tag? Here's a look at what's new.

Read more