i amIf you spend a lot of time scrolling through TikTok, there’s a chance you’ve come across people following the latest trends. Besides the rather odd look, is there a reason for this switch up? Good old fashioned forward motion not enough anymore?
Steve Burden, a certified trainer, says the main benefit of walking backwards is that it is more cardiovascularly and metabolically challenging for the body than walking normally. “This makes it an effective way to develop your cardiovascular system, without the impact and strain associated with traditional activities that require you to move at a fast pace,” he explains. “It also offers a way to fit cardio into shorter sessions, as making your heart work harder means you don’t have to perform the activity for longer to achieve the same results.”
Burden adds that another benefit of walking backwards is that you have to pay more attention and pay more attention to what you’re doing, since you can’t see where you’re going. “It will help improve your coordination and give you better control over your body,” he says. That adjustment can pay off work. Studies show that walking backwards can also improve your balance. And, compared to walking forward, walking backwards places different stresses and demands on muscles and joints in the lower body, helping to build strength and reduce overuse injuries.
What is the anatomical difference between walking forward and backward?
In addition to looking and feeling different, “muscle activation is slightly different when walking backwards, because you’ll be using the hamstrings and anterior tibialis (shin) muscles a lot more than usual, and the quads and calves a lot less,” Burden says.
He explains that these differences are not only because your foot is reaching behind you instead of forward, but also because you’re landing on a different part of your foot. According to Burden, it’s most important to pay attention to when you start walking backwards.
Form tips for walking backwards
“Every time you step backwards, you want to place your toes on the ground before your heels, as opposed to what you would do when walking forwards,” advises Burden. “This not only ensures that all the necessary muscles are adequately activated, but also stops excessive impact from going through your ankles, which can damage your joints and even jar your spine.”
Second, Burden says you should focus on walking backwards with a balanced gait, equal-length strides, and a smooth stride. Try to get into a rhythm with your pace, just like you do when you move forward as this will help you maintain your balance and keep a good pace.
Finally, he says to pay attention to your posture. “A lot of people will try to bend or twist and see where they go,” Burden says. “If necessary, make sure to stand tall with a quick glance over your shoulders, so that the muscles and joints are in proper alignment.”
The safest way is to walk backwards
While the TikTok trend may only show people walking backwards on a treadmill, you can definitely walk backwards on regular ground. However, it can be more challenging and less secure.
“It’s physiologically easier to walk backwards on a treadmill than on normal ground because you don’t have to push yourself backwards, because the ground is moving instead of you,” Burden explains. “It also has the advantage of staying in one place, so you don’t have to worry about bumping into people and objects. This is especially important when walking backwards, because you don’t have to constantly try to see what’s behind you.”
Burden adds that many people prefer walking on a treadmill because of the convenience of having workout stats like your workout time, distance and calories burned. It also offers other major benefits of treadmill walking, such as being less impactful than regular walking and ensuring you’re walking at the right pace.
How to start walking backwards for exercise
Burden suggests that anyone who wants to try incorporating walking backwards into their workout routine should start by using a treadmill set at a slower pace so you can just get used to the speed. You can use the arm rails for balance and not have to worry about bumping into things. As you get used to the speed, you can increase the treadmill speed for your back walking workout.
“Once you have full confidence, you can then try walking back outside,” advises Burden. “At this point you want to select a large, flat, quiet location, such as an empty field, where you can start learning the intricacies of the new transition again, without worrying about bumping into anyone or anything.” With that in mind, you’re ready to start putting your best foot forward.