01/23/2014 10:14 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Texting Messes With The Way You Walk, Study Finds

Do your body (and everyone else around you) a favor and don't text and walk.

A small new study shows that texting while walking makes you walk slower and more crookedly, and could even affect your balance.

"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," study researcher Siobhan Schabrun, of the University of Queensland, said in a statement.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved 26 healthy people using a phone while walking. The researchers had the participants walk in a straight line for about 8.5 meters (about 28 feet) under three conditions. In the first condition, they did not use a phone; in the second condition, they read a text message on the phone while walking; in the third condition, they typed a text message on a phone while walking.

The researchers used a 3-D movement analysis system to look at the gait performance of the participants as they completed these three walking tasks. They found that when the participants were typing or reading a text message, they walked more slowly, their heads were held more in a flexed position, and they had less range of motion of the neck.

And when the participants were typing the text message, they walked more crookedly and had even less range of motion of the neck than when they were reading the text message. "Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system," the researchers wrote in the study.

"Changes in gait associated with mobile phone use may undermine functional walking and impact on safety in common pedestrian environments," they wrote. "Individuals with constrained movement patterns, slower walking speeds, and those who perform a cognitive task while walking (often referred to as dual-tasking) are at greater risk of collisions or falls."

Indeed, a past study in the journal Injury Prevention showed that texting is the biggest culprit in distracted walking, and that nearly one in three people cross busy streets because they're distracted by their cell phones. The study also showed that people who texted took longer to cross three or four lanes of traffic than non-texters, and were less likely to look both ways before crossing or to look at the traffic light, and more likely to cross in a non-crosswalk area.