Does walking backward have benefits?

Walking backward burns more calories, improves coordination, and gives your heart and lungs a better workout than hoofing it forward -- as long as you maintain your speed. The reason? It forces your leg muscles to work harder and in different ways. Just do it in a safe place (like the local high school or college track) where you won't bump into something and take a spill.

You can benefit from working out in reverse -- even if you're recovering from certain knee or leg injuries -- because it puts less stress on the knee joint compared with walking or running forward. It's not only a great way to build or maintain cardiorespiratory fitness, but it also requires your leg muscles to work in different ways -- and that takes energy (meaning it burns calories). Walking backward also forces a "concentric contraction" (shortening) of your quadriceps, a metabolically expensive movement (meaning it burns lots of calories) compared to the "eccentric" (lengthening) movement these thigh muscles make when you walk forward.

If you have problems with balance, walking in reverse is not recommended. If you think it sounds like something you'd like to try but you're concerned about falling, buy a lightweight bike helmet with a rearview mirror so you can see where you're going. Or try walking on a treadmill while holding onto the side rails; start slowly until you get the hang of it. Then, just put one foot behind the other. Step for step at the same speed, you'll get bigger benefits going backwards!

Walking backwards is a challenge and requires balance. Be sure if you are to complete any form of walking backwards to know the area in which you are walking to avoid any obstacles and to avoid tripping and falling.

Being able to walk backwards as listed requires balance. This may seem strange but your body is used to going in a forward motion. As you turn around, you bodies center of gravity may be slightly thrown off. When this occurs, you level of stability must kick into gear! In addition, your hamstrings and glutes will work more to help you push backwards step after step.

Walking backwards has been termed "retro-walking". Retro-walking has shown to have great benefits for rehabilitating from injury, preventative exercise, and increase performance. Retro-walking can enhance balance, mobility, coordination, strength, and sustainability.

Gary Gray renowned physical therapist has stated "The great thing about backward walking/running is that it’s truly a "cross training" exercise for forward walking/running. Doing the opposite for many activities does not feed the benefit of the original activity but because of the unique features of backward walking/running, if integrated appropriately can significantly enhance your ability to move forward.”

Walking backwards will challenge your since of balance and coordination. If you have access to a treadmill, it is easy and safe to walk backwards. You can challenge your quads by using the incline and a low speed to walk backwards. Make no mistake this is challenging. Start slow.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.