While you may find it hard to believe anyone can comfortably walk or run backward, you may be surprised at how good it can feel.
While the benefits you achieve with backward walking extend to backward running, you will achieve even greater gains from the latter.
Research from Y 2011, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, asserts backward running burns more calories given the fact it takes close to 30% more energy than running forward at the same pace.15
Part of the reason for the extra calorie burn, note the study authors, is the simple reality backward running reverses the typical “soft takeoff” (when muscle-tendon units shorten) and “hard landing” (when muscle-tendon units are stretched) that is the case with forward running.
As such, running backward requires greater step frequency and a higher energy expenditure.
Authors of a Y 2001 study involving fit males who ran backward and forward under controlled conditions at 8ht treadmill speeds noted “metabolic rates and estimated rates of ground force application were greater for backward than for forward running.”1
You may appreciate backward running because it is well-known for putting less stress on your knees.
If you routinely have knee pain when you run, try reversing the activity. Some researchers have called backward running a safer form of physical training that may actually improve your forward running skills.
Authors of a 2012 study said: “Step frequency and energy expenditure are greater in backward running than in forward running. As in a catapult, muscle-tendon units are stretched more slowly during the brake at the beginning of stance and shorten more rapidly during the push at the end of stance.
We suggest that the catapult-like mechanism of backward running, although requiring greater energy expenditure and not providing a smoother ride, may allow a safer stretch-shorten cycle of muscle-tendon units.”
Be careful and:
•Watch out for obstacles — As you may imagine, walking or running backward puts you at immediate risk of tripping and falling backward. You also face the possibility of running into someone coming from the opposite direction. The last thing you want to do is be twisting your head or body in ways that will cause structural problems.
For that reason, I suggest you find a safe, obstacle-free space to do this exercise. To avoid twisting an ankle, be sure to choose a location that has a flat surface. An indoor or outdoor track or paved walking path is best.
•Change your shoes regularly — If you plan to walk or run backward, keep in mind that most athletic shoes are not designed to take high amounts of wear in the areas that will be making regular contact with the ground or pavement.
As you would with forward running or walking, keep an eye on your shoe wear and change or rotate your shoes on a regular basis.
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