Walking is a wonderful form of exercise. It is accessible, it doesn’t require pricey equipment, and can be done both in a group and on your own. If walking has been part of your fitness routine for a while now, you may feel the need to mix it up a little, to prevent getting bored. Don’t worry, there is no need to reinvent the wheel completely.
One simple way to do so is to simply start walking backward! No, we’re not joking. Incorporating just 10-20 minutes of backward-walking or jogging a few times a week can provide you with the variety you need while also offering unique benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. Here are a few reasons why you ought to try it, and how to walk and run backward safely.
Your body is used to moving forward, and your muscles lean into it instinctively. But when you switch up the direction, you throw off your body’s center of gravity just enough to improve your stability to the sense of balance.
Not only does this conscious effort develop your coordination skills, but it will also sharpen your senses. You have to pay more attention when walking backward, which flexes your mental muscles, boosts awareness of your body, and improves vision.
2. Puts less strain on the knees
Backward-walking is known to create a reduced shear force on the knees, which makes it perfect for anyone experiencing pain when moving upstairs and downstairs or doing lunges and squats.
Because the impact on the knees is so low, reverse walking is often used as part of the rehabilitation program for people recovering from knee-joint surgeries or suffering from hamstring pain. Combining backward and forward walking has been found to be a highly efficient way to strengthen such muscles as the quadriceps and the hamstrings, which improve your sense of balance. Having strong balance muscles goes a long way in reducing joint pain.
Unlike our tendency to lean forward when walking forward, we naturally stand taller to maintain balance when we walk backward. Standing tall and swinging our legs behind helps lengthen the hip flexor muscles, which are a common source of lower back pain.
3. Improves your fitness
Compared to walking forward, walking backward requires the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to work harder. In other words, reverse walking increases your heart rate faster, so you can expect to increase your exercise capacity and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. This makes your workouts more effective and intense.
Walking backward outdoors is certainly doable, but if you’re well-acquainted with walking or running on a treadmill, it might be a safer way to start.
The treadmill offers handrails and a stable place for you to test and improve your ability to walk backward comfortably. Start with a slow speed of around 1 mph and then work it up to a more brisk walk, until you reach the speed of about 3 mph. If you feel like you're out of control, bring the speed down. Focus on each individual stride and concentrate on each step instead of getting ahead of yourself. Remember: safety comes first.
If you prefer walking outside, make sure that you find a flat area, free of traffic and tripping hazards. It may be wise to start off with a partner who is walking forward and will be able to alert you of any hazards. You need to be mindful of people approaching from the opposite direction, cracks and ridges in the road, roots, puddles, and more.
It is also possible to practice backward walking indoors. Find an area of your home with no rugs, steps, or furniture. A hallway is usually a good choice.
Finally, remember to give it time and stay open-minded. Everyone feels a bit strange or goofy walking backward at first. But before long, you will feel the gratification of engaging your body and mind in a new way.
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