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Posts Tagged ‘walking safely’

A 2008 study conducted by Western Washington University psychology professor Ira Hyman found that 75 % of walkers who were talking on a cell phone did not see the colorfully dressed clown riding a unicycle in the same open plaza that they were walking through. 

This study followed a related study by Hyman that reported that walking cell phone users were more distracted than those walking and listening to music devices, those walking in pairs or those walking alone.  Furthermore the study reported that walking cell phone users were slow and zigzagging as they walked.  Professor Hyman considered whether “they had a harder time walking because they were not as plugged into the world around them.” (1)    

Do you frequently walk while talking on your cell phone?  In our busy lives we often try to multi-task by walking and making calls to a spouse, friend, family member or work associate.  The problem is that talking on a cell phone while walking can prevent you from receiving many of the benefits that daily walking has to offer. 

Downsides of Multi-Tasking 

Have you ever noticed that if you are talking on your cell phone while walking once your route is done you have no recollection of actually ‘being there? 

Professor Hyman’s study reports that the walking / phone talking combo results in slower, less purposeful walking.  If you are walking slower than normal, then you are short-changing your heart and lungs from the aerobic health benefits that walking offers.  

Talking on the phone while walking might prevent the stress reduction benefits that come from walking and it may increase your stress levels if you are having a dreaded or confrontational call or you are talking to someone who frequently bombards you with their stressful life. 

Walking and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for a mind time-out.  My favorite part of walking is letting my thoughts roam free to day dream.  Its amazing how your brain will problem-solve or come up with great ideas for home or work when you give yourself some time for random thought. 

If you are talking on the phone while walking outside you probably aren’t appreciating the emergence of spring flowers, how the buds are plumping up on the trees, how fast the clouds are moving across the sky or all of the interesting characters you see walking down a city sidewalk.  You are not experiencing your surroundings – you are not present in the moment. 

Let’s face it; if the subjects in the study didn’t see a flamboyantly dressed clown while talking on the phone, it is safe to say that you won’t notice someone who could be a threat to you because they can tell you aren’t paying attention. 

How to Free Your Daily Walk from the Phone 

Now that you know how much you are short-changing yourself from daily walking benefits by using your cell phone while walking what can you do to stop? 

Try to leave your phone at home, at your desk or in the car.  If you feel safe and/or there are other people that could assist you in an emergency where you walk, try to leave the phone behind.  Do you really have to be available during the time that you will be walking?  Liberate yourself from the phone.  Enjoy the freedom. 

Screen your calls and only answer ‘emergency’ calls.  If you feel safer keeping your phone with you during your daily walk try to not answer incoming calls.  Let voice mail pick up the call.  Put the phone on ‘silent.’  If you must answer the call keep the call short or tell the caller you will have to call back. 

Make calls only during your ‘cool-down.’  If you absolutely have to make a call try to call only during the last few minutes of your walk….during the cool-down.  This practice will allow you to reap the benefits of walking during the majority of your walk time but you will also have a few minutes to make a call when you are already walking slowly. 

Daily walking can be one of the best things you do for yourself all day.  If you use your walking time to talk on a cell phone you are missing out on many of the benefits that can keep us motivated to walk every day, no matter what.  Don’t short change yourself or your daily walking routine.  Embrace all of the benefits that daily walking can bring to your life…kick the phone habit and give your mind a break. 

Have you walked today?  Do you frequently talk on the phone while you walk?  Keep in touch by clicking the comments link below.

(1)  Relyea, Kie.  “Clown Passes Unnoticed by Cell Phone Users.”  The Tennessean 26, November 2009:  22A.

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