For most people, walking is automatic and requires no conscious effort. However, even just walking helps reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, dementia, and cardiovascular problems.
But what happens if we let go of autopilot and challenge the brain to go back? According to Professor of Clinical Exercise Physiology Jack McNamara, from the University of East London, UK, walking backwards has more benefits than the traditional version.
When we walk backwards, our brain takes longer to process the additional coordination requirements of the motor, vestibular (responsible for balance) and spatial perception systems. However, this increased level of challenge brings more health benefits,
One of the best-studied benefits of walking backwards is improved stability and balance. This practice can improve gait and balance in healthy adults with knee problems such as osteoarthritis.
According to McNamara, walking backwards causes us to take shorter, more frequent steps, which leads to better endurance in the lower leg muscles. As a result, there is a reduction in the load applied to the joints.
Adding incline shifts can also change the range of motion of your joints and muscles. This relieves pain from conditions like plantar fasciitis, which is one of the most common causes of heel pain,” she says.
Other benefits of this unusual practice include improving lower back pain and improving balance and walking speed in people with neurological conditions or who have suffered a stroke. In the spine, the benefit is the greater activation of the muscles that support it.
Helps Lose Weight
A professor of clinical exercise physiology adds that walking backwards also helps with weight loss.
While walking normally can help maintain a healthy weight, walking backwards can be more effective. The energy expenditure is approximately 40% greater than traveling at the same ground speed. There was even a study that showed a decrease in body fat in women who completed a six-week gait or backwards running training program.
How do You Start?
McNamara suggests that to start training your back, it’s best to practice indoors to avoid bumping into things and people, or in an outdoor space like a soccer field.
Resist the urge to look over your shoulder. Keep your head and chest up at all times. If you start on the treadmill, use the lateral supports and go out when you feel safe”, says the expert.
Finally, she comments that it is important to start slowly, and carry out the activity in short distances, less than 20 meters.