Smartphones make us pensioners

The step of a modern person has changed a lot, the speed of movement has decreased. The limbs adapt to the type of activity in order to avoid obstacles that are difficult to see when looking at the phone while we are checking mail or texting. The researchers say that in the long term, such stride changes can cause back and neck problems.

Study lead author Matthew Timmis, of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said the way a person walks has become similar to that of an 80-year-old pensioner. He found that people who write messages on the go find it harder to walk in a straight line and raise their leg higher when climbing the sidewalk. Their stride is a third shorter than those of non-smartphone users as they rely on their less clear peripheral vision to avoid falls or sudden obstacles.

“Both the very elderly and advanced smartphone users move slowly and carefully, in small steps,” says Dr. Timmis. – The latter significantly increase the bending of the head, because they look down when they read or write texts. Ultimately, this can affect the lower back and neck, irreversibly changing body position and posture.”

Scientists installed eye trackers and motion analysis sensors on 21 people. 252 separate scenarios were studied, during which the participants walked, read or typed messages, with or without talking on the phone. The most difficult activity was writing a message, which made them look at the phone 46% longer and 45% harder than when reading it. This forced the subjects to walk 118% slower than without a phone.

People moved a third slower when reading a message and 19% slower when talking on the phone. It was also observed that the subjects were afraid to collide with other pedestrians, benches, street lamps and other obstacles, and therefore walked crookedly and unevenly.

“The idea for the study came about when I saw from the back of a man walking down the street like he was drunk,” says Dr. Timmis. It was daylight, and it seemed to me that it was still quite early. I decided to go to him, help, but I saw that he was stuck on the phone. Then I realized that virtual communication is fundamentally changing the way people walk.”

The study showed that a person spends 61% more time overcoming any road obstacles if he moves with a smartphone in his hands. The concentration of attention is reduced, and the worst thing is that this affects not only the gait, back, neck, eyes, but also all areas of human life. By doing different things at the same time, the brain loses the ability to fully focus on one thing.

Meanwhile, China has already introduced special pedestrian paths for those who move with phones, and in the Netherlands, traffic lights have been built right into the sidewalks so that people do not accidentally enter the roadway and get hit by a car.

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