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Gait Posture. 2012 Apr;35(4):688-90. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.12.005. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Cell phones change the way we walk.

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Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Technology and Management, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.

Erratum in

  • Gait Posture. 2012 Jul;36(3):655.


Cell phone use among pedestrians leads to increased cognitive distraction, reduced situation awareness and increases in unsafe behavior. Performing a dual-task, such as talking or texting with a cell phone while walking, may interfere with working memory and result in walking errors. At baseline, thirty-three participants visually located a target 8m ahead; then vision was occluded and they were instructed to walk to the remembered target. One week later participants were assigned to either walk, walk while talking on a cell phone, or walk while texting on a cell phone toward the target with vision occluded. Duration and final location of the heel were noted. Linear distance traveled, lateral angular deviation from the start line, and gait velocity were derived. Changes from baseline to testing were analyzed with paired t-tests. Participants engaged in cell phone use presented with significant reductions in gait velocity (texting: 33% reduction, p=0.01; talking: 16% reduction, p=0.02). Moreover, participants who were texting while walking demonstrated a 61% increase in lateral deviation (p=0.04) and 13% increase in linear distance traveled (p=0.03). These results suggest that the dual-task of walking while using a cell phone impacts executive function and working memory and influences gait to such a degree that it may compromise safety. Importantly, comparison of the two cell phone conditions demonstrates texting creates a significantly greater interference effect on walking than talking on a cell phone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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