The Effect of Texting on Balance and Temporospatial Aspects of Gait

Emma C. Goddard, Western University
Pierce T. Remler, Western University
Robbie Turchyn, Western University
Robert H. Roos, Western University

This article was part of undergraduate course Kinesiology 4520B "Clinical Biomechanics" with instructor Jim Dickey


Introduction: The purpose of this study was to determine effects of texting on standing balance and the temporospatial aspects of gait. It was hypothesized that texting would decrease stride velocity and increase deviation from midline while walking, as well as increase centre of pressure (CoP) excursions in while standing.

Methods: Fifteen participants (eleven males and four females, 21.12±1.25 years of age) performed two standing balance tasks and two walking tasks. A repeated measures experimental design was used. The standing task consisted of standing as still as possible on a force plate for 20 seconds, which was then repeated while the participant texted a standard text message (48 characters). The second task consisted of walking along a six metre straight line while being filmed posteriorly along the line of progression, and perpendicular to direction of motion. This task was completed again while texting a similar predetermined message (48 characters). Balance performance was quantified by the percentage of total time within a 5 mm radius of the participants’ centre of pressure (CoP). Gait performance was quantified using the average step length, stride velocity, and mediolateral standard deviation from midline averaged from both feet.

Results: The percentage of time spent within 5 mm of the average CoP was significantly (p<0.05) less while texting compared to the non-texting control condition. Additionally, the standard deviation of mediolateral CoP excursions from the midline while walking increased significantly (p<0.05). Average step length and average stride velocity decreased significantly (p<0.05) while texting compared to the control condition.

Conclusions: Standing balance and temporospatial aspects of walking are significantly degraded by texting. These results are valuable due to the growing prevalence of mobile technology. These results suggest that texting and walking could be detrimental to pedestrian safety and can help inform decisions regarding infrastructure to minimize potential dangers associated with distracted walkers.