6 Reasons you should start walking backwards

Have you ever spotted someone walking backwards and wondered if they were onto something? While it may look peculiar, walking backwards, or retro walking, is more than just a quirky exercise trend. This unconventional practice is backed by science, offering surprising benefits that go beyond basic fitness.

Retro walking isn’t just about being different; it’s a deliberate method to enhance physical and mental health through an activity challenging the norm. By reversing the direction of your walk, you engage your body and mind in ways that forward walking does not. 

The scientific community has noted these benefits, studying retro walking in various contexts – from athletic training to rehabilitation [1]. Thus, while it may look peculiar, retro walking is a serious exercise that offers serious benefits.

1. Enhances cognitive function

Walking backward forces your brain to think differently. This non-habitual movement stimulates parts of your brain that are responsible for processing sensory information and coordination. 

Research suggests that retro walking can enhance cognitive control, which might be why it’s used in rehabilitation settings for neurological disorders.

2. Improves balance and coordination

Navigating your environment without the benefit of forward-facing vision sharpens your other senses and demands greater bodily awareness. This can lead to improved balance and coordination. 

A study from the National Institutes of Health highlighted that walking backward helps improve balance, particularly in older adults, reducing the risk of falls [1].

3. Increase muscle engagement

When you walk backwards, your body’s mechanics change. This movement engages the leg muscles differently from walking forward. 

Specifically, it places more emphasis on the posterior chain muscles, which include the hamstrings and calves. This can lead to stronger muscles and improved endurance over time.

4. Offers relief from lower back pain

Walking backwards can be a boon for those suffering from lower back pain. Altering the strain placed on the back compared to forward walking can help alleviate discomfort. This exercise reduces lower lumbar lordosis [2], or the inward curve of the spine, which is often exaggerated in people with back pain.

5. Burns more calories

Looking to boost your calorie burn? Retro walking is surprisingly efficient in burning calories. By involving more muscle groups and requiring a higher level of exertion than regular walking, it can enhance your energy expenditure. This makes it an excellent choice for those aiming to increase their metabolic rate and lose weight.

6. Reduces knee stress

For individuals with knee problems, walking backwards can be a safer alternative to traditional walking. This exercise reduces the impact on the knees, which benefits people suffering from knee osteoarthritis [3]. 

The altered stride and reduced force on the knee joint help manage pain and improve function.

Walking backwards might not replace your regular workout routine, but incorporating it into your exercise regimen can bring a refreshing and beneficial change. 

Moreover, the novelty and challenge of retro walking can reinvigorate a stagnant workout routine, making exercise more enjoyable and engaging.

So, why not take a step back – literally – and try walking backwards? It might just open up a new pathway to health and wellness, offering both physical and mental benefits that enhance your overall quality of life. 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4932084/
[2] https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/lordosis
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507884/

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