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Backward Walking Improves Coordination, Endurance, and Brainpower

You’ll flip when you see the very real physical and mental health benefits of changing your steps. You’ve probably heard that walking is one of the best types of exercise for both your body and your brain.

Walking, in addition to being free and simple to perform at home, on vacation, with poles as part of a trek, with your dog, and elsewhere, has been shown to increase mood, improve fertility, encourage weight loss, improve heart health, and much more.

But What About Walking Backward?

It’s not simply for watching the opposition team’s dodgeball or capture-the-flag players on the playground. Some argue that 100 steps back are comparable to 1,000 steps forward; that is far from child’s play.

While this has yet to be verified scientifically, “Because our gait pattern changes when we walk backward (rather than ahead), it is difficult to assert with 100% certainty that 100 steps backward equal 1,000 steps forward.

The stride length is frequently shorter than when we are moving forward naturally “Erin Nitschke, Ed.D., a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, fitness nutrition specialist, therapeutic exercise specialist, and college professor of health and human performance in Sheridan, Wyoming, explains. “However, walking backward is significantly more difficult than walking normally.”

The Health Advantages of Walking Backwards

“Walking and other backward motions can be used to incorporate locomotion into your training. If you’ve never done it before, it might be a new mental and physical challenge “personal trainer and co-founder of Barpath Fitness in Golden, Colorado, Katie Kollath, CPT

Nitschke believes it will burn more calories than going forward because “the body has to work harder than if you were walking naturally” because we engage muscles differently and it’s a somewhat more unnatural activity.

Furthermore, studies suggest that walking backward may:

  • Improve your walking form, balance, coordination, and body awareness
  • Increase muscle strength and endurance
  • Provide relief for certain ailments that make forward walking uncomfortable
  • Increase metabolism
  • Combat boredom while exercising
  • Increase exercise motivation
  • Put your thoughts and muscles to the test
  • Sharpen the mind
  • Reduce the load on the knees compared to the usual walking

When we walk forward, we hit with the heel first, then roll through the ball of the foot to the toes, where we push off to generate forward momentum. Backward walking begins with the toe, then the ball of the foot, and finally the heel. Nitschke describes the situation as “completely different.”

Who Should Walk Backward and Who Shouldn’t?

Individuals with injuries for whom exercise is not indicated, as well as those with major balance issues or fall risk, should avoid this activity. Otherwise, anyone who can safely walk ahead can try walking backward, according to Nitschke.

Nitschke suggests incorporating some backward walking into your warmup and cooldown. Using a treadmill may appear to be riskier than walking backward on a track or outside, but the equipment might really be beneficial because of the handrails.

If you have access to a treadmill, try a slow speed of roughly 1 mph while holding on with each hand on different sides of the belt. Pick up the pace if you’re comfortable, eventually working up to a brisker rate of roughly 3 mph. When you find yourself getting out of control, simply slow down and concentrate on the action to regain control.

But don’t assume your only option is to move backward. Backward shuffling (while keeping an eye out for impediments, of course) and reverse bear crawls are “more advanced kinds of backward locomotion,” according to Kollath. “Moving laterally, backward, diagonally, and in diverse planes is crucial in all of our fitness routines throughout life.”

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