How walking backwards can help strengthen your mind and body
For many people, walking is one of the easiest, low-impact forms of exercise. Every step can help increase one’s metabolism.
One form of walking, however, can reap some benefits that the traditional forward gait can’t provide: walking backwards. This non-traditional form of movement can help strengthen minds, muscles and joints.
One of the benefits of walking backwards is that it can help strengthen your mind and coordination.
"Doing something like challenging the body to walk backwards requires actually quite a lot of coordination, quite a lot of effort, and it's asking your brain to do something it's not as used to doing," said Jack McNamara, a lecturer in clinical exercise physiology at the University of East London.
He noted how recovering stroke victims, who are re-learning how to walk, may benefit from rehabilitation exercises that include walking backwards. By mastering the challenging task of walking backwards, they are strengthening their coordination skills and can improve in a less challenging form of movement, walking forward.
Another benefit to walking backwards is the strengthening of muscles and joints.
According to McNamara, when you take a step back, two of the four major muscles in our thighs tend to work a bit harder than if you were taking a step forward. Because those two muscles are working a little bit more, they are becoming a little bit stronger, which helps bring stability to the knee and relieves the knee of some pressure.
This can sometimes mean an increased quality of life and reduced pain for those suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee, noted McNamara.
Walking backwards also burns more calories.
This is because walking backwards works out muscle groups that aren’t typically used when you walk forward. It also involves taking shorter strides and more of them, rather than the longer strides taken when walking forward. More muscles are also activated to keep you upright and prevent you from falling back.
While walking backwards leads to greater energy expenditure, McNamara cautions that it might not be the best exercise choice for weight management. Instead, he said the exercise is better suited for strength and resistance training.