Does Walking Backward Have Any Exercise Benefits?

Walking Feet
© Blasbike / Depositphotos.com

Adding backward walking to your treadmill workouts and outdoors strolls can give you a variety of exercise benefits. Walking in reverse can add bouts of increased intensity, similar to a very brisk walk or an easy run. You may also improve your balance and give a workout to some muscles you don't use as frequently when walking. However, you have to take safety precautions.

Burn 40 Percent More Calories Walking Backward

The exercise energy expenditure of walking backward was measured and ranked in the Compendium of Physical Activities, along with hundreds of other physical activities. A brisk walk at 3.5 mph earns 4.3 MET (metabolic equivalents) while walking backward at that speed earns 6.0 MET. That's a boost of 40 percent in the calories you burn per minute of walking.

If you walk backward uphill at a 5 percent grade, you almost double your energy expenditure, earning 8.0 MET compared with 4.3 MET for a level walk in the usual forward direction at 3.5 mph.

This boost in calories burned can be beneficial and it is a good way to add higher intensity intervals to your walking workout. You can walk backward at a slower pace and still raise your heart rate. Other ways to add a higher intensity interval to your walking workout include stairs, hills, doing step-ups, and bursts of running or walking at your top speed.

Balance and Therapeutic Benefits of Backward Walking

Studies of both healthy adults and children show backward walking can improve balance. It also works your muscles and joints in different ways from forward walking. Adding a little backward walking to your routine is good for everyone, and you will see athletic trainers using backward walking or running for their athletes. It can be a fun way to add balance exercise to you day.

In addition to using backward walking in exercise, physical therapists use backward walking in rehabilitation and therapeutic programs for knee replacement, stroke, and Parkinson's disease.

Tips and Precautions for Backward Walking

If you're ready to get started, think first about safety. You will want to practice backward walking in an area free of tripping obstacles.

Treadmill: Start at a slow speed, such as 1 mph, for backward walking on the treadmill. As you become more proficient, you can increase the speed and incline. Practice treadmill safety and wear the safety stop cord. A treadmill can be a good way to add incline to your backward walking and get the exercise benefits of going uphill backward.

Indoor Walking: Find a place you can walk where there are no area rugs, steps, furniture, or pets that can trip you. A hallway or indoor track could be a good choice.

Track Walking: An indoor or outdoor track is a safer choice to reduce tripping hazards. Keep to the same direction as the other track users so you do not run into them.

Outdoor Walking: It can be harder to find a safe area for walking backward outdoors for any length of time. It may be wise to walk with a companion who is walking forwards and can alert you to any hazards. You need to be aware of people approaching from the opposite direction, cracks and ridges in sidewalks, curbs, roots, debris, puddles, etc.

Walking Backward With Walking Partners:  If you're walking with a partner or a group of friends, turning around and walking backward while you chat can add a little fun. Your walking partner can help spot any obstacles for you as well.

A Word From Verywell

Add a little backward walking where you can do so safely. You don't have to spend miles at it, simply a minute or two interspersed with forward walking can do the trick.

View Article Sources