A growing number of studies over the last 20 years have shown that walking has many benefits. But the latest research has found that walking backwards has even more health benefits than walking forwards.
Most of us have been walking since the age of one. It naturally becomes habitual to the point that we can walk on auto-pilot. Moreover, walking is not considered a form of exercise, and until the studies surfaced, the health benefits were barely acknowledged.
Walking is known to improve numerous chronic illnesses including depression, cardiovascular and heart-related diseases, Alzheimer’s and diabetes to name a few. Walking is also shown to improve cognitive function thanks to the coordination, stability and balance required to walk.
It turns out that walking is more complicated than we give it credit for. It was only when researchers started experimenting on backwards walking that we discovered how much attention the brain actually needs to walk.
Walk the Backwards Walk
Walking upright involves the coordination of visual, proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Because walking is a subconscious program, it seems like second nature to us, but the brain has to calculate sensations such as twisting and turning together with spatial awareness.
After multiple years of practice, the brain is accustomed to working simultaneously with all parts of the system. But if you were to walk backwards, the brain would have to recalibrate what it already knows and process the coordinating systems in a different way.
In doing so. However, researchers say that using extra brain power can lead to better mental and physical health. Walking backwards has been shown to improve gait, balance and knee osteoarthritis.
Walking backwards involves taking shorter steps more frequently. This helps to improve muscular endurance in the lower legs and reduces the burden on the knee and hip joints.
Participants in the experiments were also asked to complete challenges such as navigating inclines and declines. The change in surface engages a range of motion for joints and muscles which can help reduce pain for some foot, heel and leg conditions.
Researchers found that walking benefits can help to reduce the painful symptoms of certain conditions including plantar fasciitis, chronic lower back pain and knee osteoarthritis.
Patients that lack balance due to neurological conditions were also trialled. Researchers wanted to see if the change in walking speed and coordinating systems would help the brain function associated with balance to improve. It did.
How to get started with a backwards walking program
Walking backwards is recommended as a recovery program for patients suffering from a range of ankle, knee and hip injuries. But it can also be integrated into a typical exercise routine. – particularly a walking program.
Researchers also found that walking backwards more energy by almost 40%. Whilst walking normally at your usual pace can help you to manage your weight, walking backwards was shown it can help participants lose body fat.
If weight loss is a goal, and you want to shake up your brisk walking program or normal exercise routine, throwing 10 minutes of backwards walking in can make a real difference.
To get started, you ideally want to find an area that is void of obstacles and hazards that you might fall over. Naturally, safety comes first if you can’t see where you’re going. If you have space in the hallway at home or a garden, could be a good place to start.
The ideal place is at a local running track or stretch of path where people generally exercise in your local park. Or a clean and tidy beach. A flat surface is preferable but once you are accustomed to walking backwards, you could tackle a hill if you live in a quiet area with little traffic.
Walking backwards will feel strange at first. You will have a natural urge to constantly look over your shoulder. However, you should resist the urge to contort your body. Your chest and head should be kept straight for as long as possible.
Download the sweatcoin app
Sweatcoin promotes technology for good and has designed an app to encourage more people to engage in a walking program. For every 1000 steps you take, the app rewards you with 1SWC, a digital token which can be used to purchase goods from over 300 merchants.