What if walking backwards is not a bad idea?

Have you ever had a hand injured and having to use the other one to do many things that habit has led you to do automatically? For example, one of the exercises that is recommended to stimulate the brain and train it is to change the hand with which you normally brush your teeth or write. The beauty of our brain is that it is plastic, that is, it can reprogram itself, obviously not without some effort.

Doing similar exercises is a kind of mental training, a bit like doing math or, more generally, doing things we are not used to doing. At first you struggle but after a while things become easier. Maybe you won’t learn to write with the hand you don’t usually use (or at least not fluently) however, you will be able to brush your teeth or open a door or do other things that today you simply do with your “usual” hand.


Walking backwards is somewhat the next level of this special workout and indeed it is an actual specialty that goes beyond walking to even running. However, it is better to start with the simplest things: like walking, but backwards.

Why should you try to do that? For many reasons, one of which is the one already mentioned. But it is only one because what at first glance appears to be an oddity actually has significant physical benefits as well. Let’s see which ones.

Improves proprioception and balance

Perception of one’s location in space even without the aid of sight (proprioception, precisely) and balance are greatly stimulated by walking backwards because they train and strengthen the brain by engaging it in a counterintuitive and challenging activity.

It is a panacea for some diseases

The first difficulties you will encounter will be having to distribute your weight differently (we naturally shift our center of gravity toward the direction of travel while walking forward but doing it backwards may unbalance us too much and cause us to fall) and to dose the length of your steps better and proceed more cautiously since you can’t see what you have behind you.

After you become familiar with it, however, you can begin to enjoy the physical benefits it gives, such as:

  • less load on the knees, providing relief for those for whom this joint is particularly sensitive
  • fortify the lower leg muscles through tighter step frequency and decreased load on the knees
  • by differently resting and flexing the foot, even those suffering from plantar fasciitis can get relief
  • the different biomechanical set-up required by such an exercise also gives relief to the lower back muscles, helping those with localized low back pain.

It is more energy efficient

Walking backward is more difficult than walking forward but rewards with greater energy expenditure, estimated at 40 percent more. That’s right: walking like this burns 40 percent more calories in the same amount of time and effort.

One final aspect that might convince you to do this-pushing you to also evaluate running backward-is that even experienced athletes can benefit from it in terms of improved knee muscles, which translates into greater efficiency and more economical use of energy even during forward running. In this case, in short, the result is twofold: you strengthen your knee muscles and improve your forward running efficiency.

How to accomplish this

Do you want to give it a try? Since the gesture, as you can well imagine, is not spontaneous and intuitive, it is best to get there little by little.

  • Start doing it at home, where you know well or badly what obstacles you may face
  • Resist the temptation to look over your shoulder too often because doing so may cause you to lose your balance
  • Proceed in small steps by first resting your toes and then your heel
  • When you have gained confidence, and ruling out the possibility that you might want to do it outdoors to avoid being mistaken for a nutcase, you can try doing it on the threadmill, first at mild and then increasingly faster speeds, using the bar for support.

If you want to get started right away, the advice is to reread this article but in reverse. You will find that it is palindromic and therefore nothing will change.

Just kidding. gniddik tsuJ?

(Via The Conversation)


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