Why walking backward could move your health & fitness forward



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Walking backward in the park may not sound too sane to Westerners, but it’s been a tradition among the Chinese and Japanese for centuries. And for good reason: The ancient practice reaps big health benefits.

Walking backward is said to have its origin in ancient China. It's mentioned in the Chinese ancient Mountain and Sea scriptures, or Shanhaijing, a cultural and geographical account of China before the Qin dynasty that contains fascinating mythological creatures and records the exploits of an immortal who walked backward to journey around the world.

Walking in general is good for you. It’s a great low-impact workout that requires no equipment. Just 30 minutes, five days a week can give you a health boost.

Backward walking, also called “retro walking,” has been used to rehabilitate knee injuries and as a way to prevent injury. Japanese health researcher Junji Takano says that it strengthens the heart, lungs, muscles, joints, hips, legs and trunk.

Since we do not have eyes on the back of our heads, Takano explains that our senses automatically become more attuned to potential risks or dangers, which in turn increases our balance, vision and hearing skills, while burning more calories than traditional forms of exercise.

Here's an unbelievable fact for you: 100 steps of backward walking is equivalent to 1,000 steps of walking forward. You are also engaging muscles in your legs you don’t normally use walking forward like the calves and hamstrings.

Walking backward may hold a spiritual benefit as well. Some believe the practice is akin to a karmic reversal, allowing you to correct mistakes and sins of the past.


A few important things to remember when you walk backward:

  • Make sure there is nothing in your way (e.g., cars, potholes and trees). A park or track is your best bet.
  • Keep looking over your shoulder to check if there is anything coming your way.
  • If you’re new to backward walking, bring a buddy with you to help keep you out of harm’s way.
  • If you’re on a treadmill, start out slow, but don’t hold on to the handrails, as it changes your body posture and can wipe out the benefits associated with walking backward, according to the Asian Heart Institute.