People who text or read on their phones while walking are less likely to look at their surroundings, keep their balance or walk in a straight line, researchers found.
Researchers from Australia's University of Queensland studied the effect of mobile phone use on body movement while walking in 26 healthy individuals.
Each person walked at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of approximately 8.5 metres while doing one of three tasks: walking without the use of a phone, reading text on a mobile phone, or typing text on a mobile phone.
The body's movement was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system.
Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modified the body's movement while walking.
In comparison with normal walking, when participants were writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and moved their neck less than when reading text.
Although the arms and head moved with the chest to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head increased, which could negatively impact the balance system.
Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road, researchers said.
"Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, on your mobile phone affects your ability to walk and balance. This may impact the safety of people who text and walk at the same time," said Siobhan M Schabrun, lead author of the study.The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.