You would agree that it’s normal for people when they walk to walk in a forward direction (unless you have had a bit too much to drink and might go in more of a zig zag pattern).
Walking is a great form of exercise, which most people are able to do, even if it’s; just round the block to start with.
However have you ever considered walking backwards?
No, I have not lost the plot, this is actually something that has been studied by a range of medical & sport experts who have found that walking (or if you are brave enough running) backwards is an effective form of cardio exercise. Studies have been published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine the Journal of Biomechanics as well as other journals. There findings are very interesting (well I think so).
Some of the studies found that walking backwards compare to forwards walking can help improve your cardio fitness, Strengthen your joints and take the strain off the knee joints, improve your cognitive fitness & coordination, as well as helping to release your happy hormones that calm your senses.
When you incorporate reverse walking into your routine it can help work the muscles found on the back of the legs such as the calf, inner thighs and glutes, which do not really engage that much when you are walking forward. So with the backwards motion you engage different muscles which takes pressure off the knee joint, and is a great exercise for recovery from knee operations (always check with your doctors/physio before starting any new exercise especially after any medical procedures.
As well as working new muscles, this form of exercise also provides an aerobic response with the diaphragm having a workout, you automatically breathe walking forwards, but when you start to walk backwards you have to think more and that also includes how you are breathing, which increased the load on both your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
When we repeat an action over and over again such as walking forward it can over time create either musculoskeletal issues or muscle imbalances, but by changing the way we do things/activities can potentially help to rebuild and correct any of the imbalances and also strengthen the damaged muscles. Please remember to always consult your GP or a Physiotherapist if you have any underlying medical conditions or injuries before you try any rehabilitation type exercise.
However some of the following conditions could be improves with some backwards walking such as:
Lower back Pain – did you know that people who suffer with a lower back pain could be the result of tight hamstring. This imbalance is known Flat Back Syndrome, with the backwards walking it will help to work on the tight hamstrings to try and relax them, thus taking pressure off the lower back and reducing the stress onto discs in the spine.
Stiff Big Toe – apparently as get older we can stuffer with the joints in the big toe starting to seize up and can become rather painful to walk (forward), with the backwards walking movement it can help to stimulate the toe joints to bend into extension and thus loosening them up for better movement.
Ankle Sprains – there have been studies carried out to show that backwards walking on an incline of around 7-10% could help strength the ankle joint area and reduce the risk of sprains. Now for a technical bit – by walking backwards on the incline of between 7-10% it forces the ankles to plantarflex which is the position that 90% of the ankle sprains occur. Ankles are very unable when they are in plantarflexion, so with the practice of backwards walking it can help to strengthen the ankle joints and also balance of the whole body to try and prevent sprains in the future.
If you are considering trying this backwards walking here are a few tips to make sure no accidents will occur,
- Always wear shoes & makes sure laces are tied tightly
- Always check there are no obstacles in your path that you might trip over
- If using a treadmill make sure you have it on a low speed setting
Most of all have fun and see how this new activity can help improve your balance and fitness as it has been said that 100 backwards steps is equivalent to 1,000 steps going forward.