New YorkIf you spend your time on a crowded sidewalk, you will see a lot of bowed heads and downcast looks. A recent study of college students revealed that a quarter of people crossing pedestrian crossings are connected to a device. “I don't think people realize how distracting it is and how it changes their awareness of the environment while walking and using a phone,” says Wayne Jiang, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Florida, who has studied environmental nature. The Link Between Phone Use and Walking Injuries In fact, our devices can cause what some experts call “inattention blindness.” One study revealed that participants were half less likely to focus on a clown on a unicycle, a bold enough provocation, while walking and talking on the phone.
But having a device in your hand not only distracts you, it also changes your mood, gait, and posture, and hinders your ability to get to your destination without a problem.
This is how the phone interferes with your step
According to Jiang, when we walk and use our phones at the same time, we intuitively adapt to the way we move. Pedestrian videos show how people who use their phones walk 10% slower than those who are not distracted. “There are a number of changes in gait that reflect deceleration,” says Patrick Crowley, a project manager at the Technical University of Denmark, who studied the biomechanics of walking while using a mobile phone. Biomechanics of walking while using a mobile phone: shorter steps and more time with both feet on the ground.”
These changes disrupt traffic on sidewalks, and if walking is a large part of your daily physical activity, walking around with your phone can have ramifications for your fitness, notes Elroy Aguiar, an assistant professor of exercise science at the University of Alabama. Looking at a smartphone while walking instead of standing can also increase the load or force you put on your neck and upper back muscles, contributing to symptoms of “text neck syndrome.” On the other hand, a research was published in the journal Gait and posture He points out that this subsequently reduces balance and increases the risk of tripping or falling.
How does it affect mood?
When scientists want to study stress, they usually ask people to do many things at once. This means that making them multitask is a surefire way to tire people out. There is evidence to suggest that walking while using a phone also generates this reaction, even if we are not aware of it at the time. One experiment found that the more phone use on a treadmill, the higher cortisol levels, which is called Stress hormone.
A 2023 study looked at the psychological effects of walking in an outdoor park with and without your phone. “As a general rule, when people go for a walk, they feel better when they're done, and this is reflected in the phone-free walking group,” says Elizabeth Broadbent, one of the study's authors and a professor of health psychology at UCLA. University of Auckland (New Zealand). “In the groups that walked by phone, these effects were reversed,” adds Broadbent. “Instead of feeling more positive after walking, people felt less positive: less motivated, less happy, and less relaxed.” Broadbent and the study's co-authors attributed these negative effects to the mobile phone user's lack of communication with his surrounding environment. It is now widely accepted that walking in nature has benefits for mood and mental health. “It seems that to get these benefits, it's important to focus on the environment and not the phone,” Broadbent says.
Dangers of distracted walking
Most of us know the dangers of walking and using the phone at the same time. Some cities, like Honolulu, have also passed some laws regarding distracted pedestrians, but research into these dangers has revealed some surprises. Jiang's study looked at the relationship between “distracted phone walking” and emergency room visits. Between 2011 and 2019, he and his colleagues found that nearly 30,000 injuries were caused by using a phone while walking. Although many of these incidents occurred on the street (and on sidewalks), about a quarter of them occurred at home. Giang says tripping over an obstacle or falling down the stairs poses a real risk.
Jiang's work points to age as one of the most important risk factors for walking injuries. Young people between the ages of 11 and 20 record the highest percentage of infections, followed by adults between the ages of 20 and 40, perhaps because young people use their phones much more compared to older people, according to Jiang. So how can we stay safe? If we want to check our cell phones, Jiang recommends pausing for a moment, preferably without disturbing other pedestrians. If you're walking and using your phone at the same time, he recommends avoiding stairs, pedestrian crossings and crowded or uneven areas: according to research, these are the places where you're most likely to get into an accident. “Even the most alert and aware people get hurt while walking,” Jiang concludes. “And if you are also distracted by your phone, you are putting yourself at risk.”
How to make your smartphone less attractive?
Excessive phone use can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes, you stay up until the wee hours of the morning looking at Instagram or TikTok, and other times, it's difficult to be fully present in your daily life and with those around you. Experts say one way to make your cell phone less attractive and not look at it as much is to change the screen to grayscale or turn off notifications. Another option is to rearrange your phone's apps so that they're harder to find and easier to open. They also recommend removing certain types of apps, especially ones you know you'll find difficult to avoid.
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