At first, walking or running backwards seems pointless. You can’t see a darn thing! And while it looks strange, this type of exercise has some serious perks. It’ll actually improve your fitness more than walking or running forward.
Also known retro-walking or retro-running, this exercise sets you up for success. Shaking things up will avoid the dreaded fitness plateau. Ironically, moving backwards might actually be the key for going forward. If you’re not convinced, check out these seven benefits of going in reverse.
Walk Or Run Backwards To Get These 7 Amazing Health Benefits
1. Enhances Muscle Strength
Muscles get stronger by repeated stretching and shortening. When you move backward, the stretch-shorten cycle happens differently– in a good way. They stretch slower and shorten faster. It builds up stronger, more powerful muscles.1 Better yet, you’ll work out muscles that you normally wouldn’t when moving forward.
2. Increases Calories Burned
Backward walking and running may be the missing piece of your weight loss routine. Compared to forward movement, muscles are more activated in reverse. This this means you’ll use up more energy and burn more calories. Even aerobic fitness will improve, a major factor of weight loss.23
3. Reduces Shock Absorption
Retro-walking and running is easier on the joints. The force is much lighter, even though you’re technically using up more energy.4 The reason? The slow stretching of the muscle. Since it doesn’t happen rapidly – like in forward movement – there’s a lower risk for muscle damage.5
4. Prevents ACL Tearing
We all probably know someone that has torn their ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament. It’s one of the most common sports injuries out there! In the United States, 250,000 people hurt their ACL each year.6 Retro-running and walking decreases the risk of tearing. Again, it’s because of the slow muscle stretch.7 This makes it an ideal exercise for injury rehabilitation.
5. Decreases Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is extremely common. Worldwide, it’s the top cause of disability!8 Fortunately, the benefits of backward movement go beyond the legs. It also improves low back pain and range of motion, according to the International Journal of Exercise Science. All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day, four days a week.9
6. Improves Heart Health
In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.10 And while walking and running will lower your risk – why not take it even further? In a 2007 study, researchers found that going backward increases heart rate.11 It also doesn’t hurt that the cardiopulmonary demand is higher.12 Together, these benefits make your heart health thrive.
7. Develops Coordination
Are you the clumsy type? Improve coordination and balance by going in reverse. We walk forward every single day, but switching it up offers a healthy challenge. As an added bonus, better coordination lessens the risk of falls and injuries.13
- Unless you have eyes on the back of your head, moving backward can be dangerous. Play it safe by doing it in a clear, open space. Examples include the backyard or empty room.
- Start slow to avoid tripping. Pay attention to your surroundings. Once you get used to retro-walking or running, pick up the pace.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑4, ↑7, ↑12||Terblanche, E., C. Page, J. Kroff, and R. E. Venter. “The effect of backward locomotion training on the body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness of young women.” International journal of sports medicine 26, no. 03 (2005): 214-219.|
|↑3, ↑5||Cavagna, G. A., M. A. Legramandi, and A. La Torre. “An analysis of the rebound of the body in backward human running.” Journal of Experimental Biology 215, no. 1 (2012): 75-84.|
|↑6||Funded Injury Control Research Centers. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.|
|↑8||Back Pain Facts and Statistics. American Chiropractic Association.|
|↑9||Whitley, Chet R., and Janet S. Dufek. “Effects of backward walking on hamstring flexibility and low back range of motion.” International Journal of Exercise Science 4, no. 3 (2011): 4.|
|↑10||Heart Disease Facts.|
|↑11||Masumoto, Kenji, Shin-ichiro Takasugi, Noboru Hotta, Kazutaka Fujishima, and Yukihide Iwamoto. “A comparison of muscle activity and heart rate response during backward and forward walking on an underwater treadmill.” Gait & posture 25, no. 2 (2007): 222-228.|
|↑13||Mehdizadeh, Sina, Ahmed Reza Arshi, and Keith Davids. “Quantifying coordination and coordination variability in backward versus forward running: Implications for control of motion.” Gait & posture 42, no. 2 (2015): 172-177.|