Should We Walk Backwards?


| 4 Comments
My mom went South Korea about two months ago and I barely spoke to her for the duration of her trip. When she got home and finally called me, what was the first thing she said? "Tal! They all exercise backwards there!" I was extremely confused until she showed me this picture:

IMG_4281.jpg
At first when she sent me this I was confused. It seems like they are walking normally to me. But then she preceded to send me a few videos of people walking all over town backwards. After a few moments of being confused I forgot about this strange observance, until I saw an article on the New York Times website that states that backwards running and walking "enables people to avoid or recover from common injuries, burn extra calories, sharpen balance and, not least, mix up their daily routine." A study done at the University of Milan, Italy, showed that running forwards tore more ligaments and caused more injuries while running backwards helped strengthen muscles. Yes, running backwards uses 30% more energy, but it also causes less heart pounding while running which helps endurance.
So what does all of this mean? According to Giovanni Cavagna at the University of Milan, it shows that running backwards can improve strength to better improve ones forwards running. And it can also help lose more body fat because of the extra energy you exert. In a recent study, female college students who usually ran forwards changed their exercise to jogging backwards 15-45 minutes a day for 6 weeks and found that they lost almost 2.5 percent of their body fat, more than one would lose with running forwards.
What are the downsides to running backwards? Well this should be obvious: you can't see where you are going. I remember having to run backwards in gym class when I was younger. One kid would always fall into another kid and get hurt and we would never have to run backwards again. So if you run on a closed track by yourself or with one other person, you should be fine.
The best way to implement this interesting exercise is by putting it in your workout routine for just a few minutes and adding more time each time you workout. Eventually your body will get used to the motions and will be able to run backwards with more ease.
So I guess the Korean's aren't very strange after all. Running backwards has some serious benefits and can be one of the best ways to lose weight. It is a strange thing to see out on the street, but I think that it can seriously benefit people's bodies and help us use muscles we aren't used to putting into practice. What do you think? Should people start running backwards? Or is it just a waste of extra energy?

4 Comments

Interesting article! This reminded me of the Gangnam Style music video that was popular a few months ago. Because in the music video, there were people walking backwards!

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting read. I'm guessing we can burn more calories and strengthen muscles because walking backwards isn't something we are used to, therefore we have to focus more on what we're doing, hence improving our overall well-being.
This also reminded me of someone who told me that using the opposite hand you usually use makes you smarter or can improve your motor skills. It's beneficial to use your opposite hand because you can grow brain cells! This is also because you are not familiar with using your opposite hand, therefore you have to give more thought into it. For example, if you brush your teeth with the opposite hand, you have to re-learn to brush your teeth, utilizing your brain more. It improves mental stimulation and you can also recover from injuries by doing this. More benefits can be read about on here.

I think that people should definitely incorporate running or walking backwards into their exercise routines. I remember when i was in band and had to play the cymbals, so it would require me to walk backwards. After walking backwards I would definitely feel the pain in my legs more then i would if i would have walked forward. I would definitely incorporate running backwards because it is always good to add new things to change up everyday routine with something new. As the article "Why You Should Change Up Your Workout Routine Daily" states, "Sticking to the same routine can be very convenient, but at some point, this routine may not give you any results, so you need to shake things up" (http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/why-you-should-change-up-your-workout-routine-daily.html#b).

I was a drum major for my marching band in high school. When we did parade marching, I would have to direct and march backward at the same time. This was tricky because I was always worried I was going to trip on something. The thing that was equally scary about it was that, 6 weeks before our annual band trip, I tore my ACL playing lacrosse. I was really worried that my knee injury would prevent me from being able to march backward. Like your article stated though, walking backward is easier on the ligaments than walking forward. I found this to be the case.

Technically you do not need an ACL to walk/march, so I decided to try marching backward in the practices before the band trip and see if it would be something I'd be able to do. I found it to be slightly painful walking forward, but not at all walking backward. On top of this, the backward walking helped me to build up my calf muscles. After my surgery and during physical therapy, my physical therapist noted that my calf muscles were strong despite the fact that many of my other muscles were weaker. She asked me what I had done between my injury and surgery to maintain my calf muscles (typically a person's muscles will atrophy during this time). I explained to her that marching backward for marching band practices and the band trip helped me to maintain these muscles-- something that would have been a lot harder to do going forward since I wasn't able to run.

Ellipticals are also less stressful on your knees. This article from the Mayo Clinic discusses the health benefits for your knees of an elliptical versus a treadmill. One of the advantages is that you can pedal in reverse!

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/elliptical-machines/AN01620

What an interesting find. I think this finding and study is worth trying out for myself and friends in an open, safe area somewhere. If people really want to lose those extra calories or get in shape faster, they should incorporate such routines into their daily workout.
I understand that most people wouldn't do this because they can't see, but is that much trouble? It would put a lot of strain on the neck, but pain is beauty!
Actually when I googled in "problems exercising backwards" there wasn't any. There were many sites about how even bending backwards is much better for a person than to bend forward. It's quite fascinating really.

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