The Body and Mind Benefit from Backward Walking

Repeating the same workout routine every day becomes boring sooner or later. This can be easily prevented without the need to rediscover the wheel. Instead of giving up on your fitness routine due to monotony, include something new in the routine and try backward walking.

Why walk backward?

Though you might think it silly to walk backward but in actuality, several benefits both mental and physical can be obtained by walking backward. Different muscles of the body are challenged by this simple change and the mind is forced to operate and focus differently. While walking demand is placed on bones, muscles, joints, heart, lungs, and the nervous system (1). Scientific evidence suggests that muscles of the lower limb are more stimulated in backward walking than forward walking and increase quadriceps activity (2). Moreover, the shear force created on the knees during forward walking reduces when a person walks backward. This is especially helpful in the case of someone who is under rehabilitation due to an injury (3).

Benefits of Walking Benefits

Backward walking, also called Retro walking has been popular in Japanese folklore because according to the lore,1000 steps taken in a forward direction are equal to only 100 steps taken backward. Walking backward imparts several advantages to both mind and body.

  1. Increases Calorie Burn and Improve Cardiorespiratory fitness.

In backward walking, anatomical constraints lower the speed but the step frequency is more and a person takes more small strides (4). In backward walking, the metabolic cost that is the consumed amount of energy usually expressed in calories increases. The reason is the increased frequency of steps and the decreased length of steps using more energy due to the heart pumping faster (5). Dr. Ankur Phatarpekar who is the Director of Cath lab at Symbiosis Hospital says, “Walking backward allows you to get a cardio fix, boost your metabolism, and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.”

  1. Improves cardiorespiratory Fitness

Dr. Ankur Phatarpekar says, “Moving in reverse causes your heart to beat faster than moving forward”. During backward walking, heart rate and the consumption of oxygen increase resulting in improved cardiovascular fitness (6).

  1. Improves Balance

Dr. Ankur says, “Walking backward is excellent for improving balance.” Your body is used to only one motion, that is moving forward. But upon switching directions, your body is thrown off its center of gravity. This calls for more stability to retain the balance. Because backward walking enhances the proprioception of the limbs and the gait characteristics, it improves the body’s balance (7).

  1. Sharpen Senses

Since walking backward goes against nature, it helps hone thinking skills. In backward walking, you need to be continuously aware of where you are putting your foot which results in increased sensory responses (8).

    1. Other benefits

Walking backward enhances the side and peripheral vision, and amplifies nerve connections. Since you cannot rely completely on vision while walking backward, your hearing also sharpens.

Walking backward breaks the monotonous fitness routine and a great amount of benefit can be reaped in half the time. Happy walking!


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  2. Yang Y-R, Wang R-Y, Lin K-H, Chu M-Y, Chan R-C. Task-oriented progressive resistance strength training improves muscle strength and functional performance in individuals with stroke. Clin Rehabil. 2006 Oct;20(10):860–70.
  3. Roos PE, Barton N, van Deursen RWM. Patellofemoral joint compression forces in backward and forward running. J Biomech. 2012 Jun 1;45(9):1656–60.
  4. Dufek JS, Bates BT. The evaluation and prediction of impact forces during landings. Med Sci Sports Exerc [Internet]. 1990 Jun [cited 2022 Mar 4];22(3). Available from:
  5. Flynn TW, Connery SM, Smutok MA, Zeballos RJ, Weisman IM. Comparison of cardiopulmonary responses to forward and backward walking and running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994 Jan;26(1):89–94.
  6. Hooper TL, Dunn DM, Props JE, Bruce BA, Sawyer SF, Daniel JA. The Effects of Graded Forward and Backward Walking on Heart Rate and Oxygen Consumption. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2004 Feb;34(2):65–71.
  7. Wang J, Xu J, An R. Effectiveness of backward walking training on balance performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Gait Posture. 2019 Feb 1;68:466–75.
  8. Pence K. Walking backward to get ahead [Internet]. UC News. 2020 [cited 2022 Mar 4]. Available from:

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