Gait pattern alterations during walking, texting and walking and texting during cognitively distractive tasks while negotiating common pedestrian obstacles

Sammy Licence, Robynne Smith, Miranda P. McGuigan, Conrad P. Earnest

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51 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives Mobile phone texting is a common daily occurrence with a paucity of research examining corresponding gait characteristics. To date, most studies have participants walk in a straight line vs. overcoming barriers and obstacles that occur during regular walking. The aim of our study is to examine the effect of mobile phone texting during periods of cognitive distraction while walking and negotiating barriers synonymous with pedestrian traffic. Methods Thirty participants (18-50y) completed three randomized, counter-balanced walking tasks over a course during: (1) normal walking (control), (2) texting and walking, and (3) texting and walking whilst being cognitively distraction via a standard mathematical test performed while negotiating the obstacle course. We analyzed gait characteristics during course negotiation using a 3-dimensional motion analysis system and a general linear model and Dunnet- Hsu post-hoc procedure the normal walking condition to assess gait characteristic differences. Primary outcomes included the overall time to complete the course time and barrier contact. Secondary outcomes included obstacle clearance height, step frequency, step time, double support phase and lateral deviation. Results Participants took significantly longer (mean ± SD) to complete the course while texting (24.96 ±4.20 sec) and during cognitive distraction COG (24.09±3.36 sec) vs. normal walking (19.32 ±2.28 sec; all, P<0.001). No significant differences were noted for barrier contacts (P = 0.28). Step frequency, step time, double support phase and lateral deviation all increased in duration during the texting and cognitive distraction trial. Texting and being cognitively distracted also increased obstacle clearance versus the walking condition (all, P<0.02). Conclusions Texting while walking and/or being cognitively distracted significantly affect gait characteristics concordant to mobile phone usage resulting in a more cautious gate pattern. Future research should also examine a similar study in older participants who may be at a greater risk of tripping with such walking deviations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133281
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Early online date29 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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