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Is walking or running backward good for burning calories, knee pain?

Pregnant women, elderly population, stroke patients, or those who have poor balance and coordination must get the approval of their physician before starting, said Varun Rattan, Co-founder of The Body Science Academy

walkingHave you ever tried reverse walking? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

We have to ask you a simple question: Have you ever walked backward, or thought about the benefits it may have? Whether you have or not, turns out, what looks like a simple act has numerous health benefits! In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine also mentioned that reverse walking and/or running makes for good cardio exercise. The results of doing this simple modification showed improvement in weight loss goals as well as body composition.

Taking a leaf from the 2005 study, nutritionist Juhi Kapoor took to Instagram to further share that walking backward helps make the legs stronger and uses muscles that haven’t been used before. Referring to a study published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, the expert mentioned that people who have knee pain or had an injury can do reverse walking for rehabilitation as its impact on the knee is very low.

In fact, another study published in the Journal of Biomechanics also found that reverse or backward running reduced anterior knee pain, she mentioned.

Listing some benefits, Kapoor said that reverse walking helps with

Calorie burn
Knee strengthening
Strengthening of the leg muscles
Reduces back pain
Helps in sciatica

Elucidating how reverse walking helps better the mind-body connection, Varun Rattan, Co-founder of The Body Science Academy told indianexpress.com that one doesn’t have any difficulty walking forward as “it is something we have been doing our entire lives”. “Walking backward, on the other hand, requires active concentration. Running and walking backward are both excellent ways to train the muscles involved in slowing down or decelerating when going forward. Studies indicate that backward walking is more effective in stimulating the muscles in the lower limbs than forward walking,” he said.

In addition to strengthening the knee extensor muscle, backward walking improves functional balance and works up the cardiopulmonary system. It can also contribute to improving speed while walking forward, Rattan added.

How to increase the challenge?

Rattan also said that one can make backward walking more challenging on a treadmill by increasing its duration, slope, or by walking with the machine’s power turned off.


“Proprioception can also be significantly enhanced when walking backward with eyes closed. This can be accomplished safely under the observation of an instructor either on a treadmill or on the ground,” he mentioned.

Another variation is lateral walking or running, which targets the inner and outer leg muscles.

Does running backward help? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

How to practice?


Kapoor mentioned that one should practice walking backward daily for 15 minutes (anytime in the day). “It is a good idea to do these movements for 10 to 15 minutes twice a week to improve balance, build overall leg strength, and enhance proprioception,” Rattan said.

One can start with five mins of backward walking and it can go up to 15-20 minutes with a gradual progression, said
Digvijay Singh, holistic health coach. “It should be practiced in a safe and known environment to prevent any injuries,” he said.

Is it for everyone?

Pregnant women, elderly population, stroke patients, or those who have poor balance and coordination must get the approval of their physician before starting, suggested Rattan.

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First published on: 01-12-2022 at 11:30 IST
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