The benefits of walking backwards

Stability and balance are two of the primary and commonly known advantages of walking backwards

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A person walks on the road.— Unsplash
A person walks on the road.— Unsplash

Walking is free and does not call for any specialised equipment or gym subscriptions. Fortunately, the majority of us walk without even thinking about it. Since it doesn't require deliberate effort, many of us forget the advantages of walking specifically for our health. But what would happen if we started going backwards instead of forwards, pushing ourselves to do the challenging thing?

Several psychological studies have explored the benefits of training the mind by doing the opposite of what we usually do. One of the most common training methods is brushing the teeth with the opposite hand (instead of the dominant one).

Exercise doesn't have to be necessarily challenging. Whether you are active or not, even a brisk 10-minute daily walk can provide a number of health benefits and can contribute toward the minimum 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week that the World Health Organisation recommends.

However, walking is trickier than we would like to believe. Our visual, vestibular (sensations connected to motions like twisting, spinning, or moving quickly), and proprioceptive (knowledge of where our bodies are in any space) systems must work together to keep us upright. Our brains need more time to handle the additional demands of coordinating these systems when we walk backwards, says Jack McNamara, lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology, University of East London. This higher degree of difficulty also has higher health advantages.

Stability and balance are two of the primary and commonly known advantages of walking backwards, reports The Conversation.

For both healthy people and especially for people with knee osteoarthritis, walking backwards can help with balance and forward gait (how a person walks). We take fewer, shorter steps when moving backwards, which improves the muscular tolerance of the lower leg muscles while also easing the strain on the joints.

Even after a stroke or any other neurological illness, patients' balance and walking speed are affected and treated using the backwards-walking method.

Surprisingly, walking backwards can be even more effective for maintaining a healthy weight than normal walking.

One study found that women who completed a six-week backwards walk or run training programme experienced reductions in body fat. The energy expenditure when walking backwards is almost 40% higher than when walking at the same speed forwards.