Each day we put one foot in front of the other and walk forward without realizing the long-lasting effects. When you walk backwards, you reach back with your toe and roll through your foot to your heel. This works the shin muscles, as opposed to the calf muscles which tend to do all the work when we walk forward. This also works our glutes — which engage as you begin to reach back with your toe.
Hailed in China for its health and mental advantages, there are plenty of advantages to walking in reverse (or retro-walking, as it’s also known). The benefits are the same whether you do it on a treadmill or at the park.
It is often used in physical therapy clinics to help people improve their gait and mobility in the lower extremities. It is frequently used to improve knee, hip, and ankle range of motion (ROM), improve strength, and improve lower extremity mechanics related to gait. This is especially good if you struggle with knee pain because this technique reduces the strain on your knees.
Reverse Walking Recommendation
In general, any person who has a lower extremity impairment that results in loss of normal walking mobility may benefit from reverse walking, either on the treadmill or over solid ground.
Common conditions that may benefit from reverse walking include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lower extremity fracture
- Hip, knee, or ankle surgery
- Sciatica with tightness in hamstrings
- Hamstring strain
Benefits of Walking Backwards:
It may sound strange or silly at first, but if you take a closer look at the technique, you will see that it has tons of benefits for your physical and mental health:
- It Burns more calories. Moving in reverse gets your heart pumping faster than moving forwards, meaning you get a cardio fix, metabolism boost, and torch more calories in a shorter period of time.
- Good for balance. Your body is used to moving forwards without thought. But when you switch up direction, you slightly throw off your body’s centre of gravity, calling for more stability to maintain your balance. Make sure you’re walking in an area without obstacles to avoid falls or collisions.
- Walking backwards sharpens the senses. Since it goes against our logic, stepping in reverse hones your thinking skills. You have to pay attention, which flexes your mental muscles, boosts body consciousness, and improves your vision.
- It is easier on the joints and back. Walking backwards has tremendous benefits if you have arthritis in your spine, knees, hips, and ankles. If you have any sort of back or knee injury, you’ll soon see why walking backward is good for you when you begin reverse stepping. It takes away the usual heel strike, requires less range of motion in your joints than walking forwards, and changes your pelvic alignment to open joints in your spine – potentially easing off back pain. We stand taller when walking backward — unlike the tendency to lean forward when walking forward. Standing taller and swinging our leg behind helps lengthen the hip flexor muscles, which are often the source of low back pain when tight , especially in runners.
- Does wonders for flexibility & strength. Retro-walking for 10-15 minutes, four days a week, can flex out your hamstrings and strengthen muscles that usually take a backseat when we walk forwards.
- Walking backwards shakes up your routine. Are you bored of the same old exercises? Not only does reversing your walk come with a range of benefits for the mind and body, it mixes up your activities and staves off monotony – meaning you’re more likely to stick with your training.
How to Walk Backwards.
Here’s how to get started:
- Choose surfaces where you won’t trip
- Take 10 steps backward every minute or so
- Increase to 10, 20, and 30 steps.
- When steady and strong and safe, up the pace to a gentle backward jog — just 10m is fine to start.
- Do the walking backward on every walk, and the jogging about 3 times each week.
Since muscles work in teams and walking backward recruits a new team, you’ll inevitably feel some initial adjustments.
Walking forward is the best thing that you can do for rest and recovery of those aches — don’t stop moving.