Smartphone makes us walk like cowboys

If you type on your smartphone while walking, your gait adapts to the demands of multitasking. What exactly happens during "text walking" has now been investigated.

a woman using her smartphone while walking

In the scientific journal "Heliyon", researchers from the University of Applied Sciences (FH) Campus Vienna show that the steps become shorter and wider. Although this "cowboy-like" gait reduces the risk of falling, it can put strain on the knees.

"The study results show that the body switches to a kind of safety mode when using a smartphone. While the walking speed decreases, the stride width increases at the same time," says Sebastian Durstberger, head of the research project. This was revealed to the team during the close observation of 27 study participants, who marched on a special treadmill in front of a large screen that provided the most realistic conditions possible in the laboratory.

Higher joint load

Their movements were recorded with sensors, displayed in 3D models and analysed. The placement of the feet and the distribution of force were also recorded. While walking, the test subjects had to complete maths tasks in their heads on one occasion and on their smartphones on another. "This allowed us to find out whether concentrating on one thing alone or using a smartphone has an effect on the gait pattern," says Durstberger.

According to the scientists, the shorter and wider steps lead to a higher load on the outside of the knee joint, which can be accompanied by a slight X-position. In the long term, this "text-walker" gait could cause lasting damage to the meniscus and cartilage and reduce their resilience, according to the researchers.

Written by: sda

Photos: Keystone

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