Walking backwards also known as Retro-walking is one of the simplest and healthiest exercises you’ve probably never tried! Below are 5 good reasons to incorporate this exercise into your daily routine.
- Improves muscle strength: Walking backwards increases muscle strength of your thighs (quadriceps) and calves as well reducing wear-and-tear on knee ligaments (anterior cruciate).
- Increases balance and coordination. Walking backwards not only improves balance in otherwise healthy adults (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4932084/) but also speeds up rehabilitation after a stroke (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29232308)
- Reduces Body Fat: Walking backwards requires more energy in a shorter period of time than walking forward. As a result, ~30% more calories are burned and body fat is reduced (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15776337).
- Reduces Back Pain: When you walk backwards your posture improves because greater concentration is required compared to conventional walking. This produces a taller stature and lengthening of the hip flexor muscles which in turn ease low back pain that is often accompanied by poor posture and tightness of the hip flexors.
- Improves Brain Function: Walking backwards has been shown to improve various brain functions including attention span, memory and processing speed as assessed by the Stroop Test (see https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02342.x?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed)
- I tell my patients to find the longest room in their home and to start by simply walking forward and backward for 5 minutes on day 1 and progress to 10-15 minutes daily. Other places to safely walk backwards on a flat surface include a nearby school playground or track. Doing this exercise at least 4 days a week on a regular basis will reap important health dividends for your heart, body and mind. So start 2020 on more than just the “right foot”…move both feet backwards!
- Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” published by Penguin Random House.