Whenever you encounter a difficult situation, ‘take a step back’. So goes an oft-repeated advice. Good advice. Taking that step back boosts your capability to deal with tough times. In fact, actual, physical backward locomotion is proving to be a powerful trigger to mobilise physiological resources for better health, that is, better blood sugar control in diabetics, balanced hormones and a stronger immunity.
Benefits of reverse walking
- Better cardio-respiratory fitness
At a given pace, an athlete can increase the heart rate to 156 beats per minute with backward walking as compared to 106 beats with forward walking. This develops endurance and eventually helps reduce elevated blood pressure. The heart and the lungs get a better workout too with this form of exercise.
- Increased energy expenditure
Walking backward burns several times more calories than jogging. Muscle (electromyographical) activity of the lower extremities is greater in backward versus forward walking, which suggests that at a similar pace, you can expend more energy in a shorter period of time.
- Increased metabolism
The leg muscles work in a different manner when you reverse walk, activating an otherwise sluggish metabolism. Backward walking technically triggers a concentric contraction (shortening) of your quadriceps (front thigh muscles). This type of contraction is a metabolically expensive movement, which means it burns a lot more calories compared to eccentric movement (lengthening) of the thigh muscles, involved in walking forward.
- Better brain and balance
Walking backward is a neurobic activity that causes new neural connections to grow in your brain. This happens because reverse walking involves one or more of your senses in a novel context. Since you cannot see what you are walking into, the other senses sharpen to protect you. It brings better balance, meaning that the vision and the hearing power increase too. It engages your attention and breaks a routine activity in an unexpected way.
- Rehabilitation of Lower Extremities – Hips, Lower Back, Knees
You can benefit from working out in reverse even if you are recovering from certain knee or leg injuries, as it puts less stress on the knee joints. Backward travel is unmatched for those who suffer from muscle injuries of thehip, the groin, the hamstrings or the lower back, and can also work for those undergoing post- surgical knee joint rehabilitation.
When you walk backward, the front of your foot strikes the floor first as compared to the heel, unlike in regular walking. Since the direction of the force on the knee joint is reversed, it may help anyone who experiences pain ascending or descending the stairs or hills, or anyone who undergoes pain when performing lunges or squats.