Retro walking: One step backwards, two steps forward!

Everybody walks. Some stride, some march and some prefer to just saunter about without having a care in the world. Many of us love walking. In fact, the reason why you are here is enough proof of your appreciation for this natural and almost effortless exercise.

When we walk for health, there is a whole lot of creativity we all bring to it; from trying different kinds of shoes to choosing scenic spots to creating multiple playlists on our music players that suit our pacing or acoustic preference depending on our mood and what not! And all this just so our beloved exercise doesn’t get boring.

For ages now, we have known and experienced the numerous benefits of walking. Those of you who didn’t care to check the above link have possibly conducted all kinds of experiments to make sure your walking routine is a new adventure each day and by now are hopeless. Don’t be disappointed, smile, for there still remains a path untrodden and this is what it looks like! Even though the demonstration is on a special treadmill, you can walk ‘backwards’ for stretches just as you do in your favourite walking area.

Like what you see? No? Looks funny? But it won’t feel as funny after we tell you what it does. What you see up there is called “Retro walking” and is said to triple, that’s right, TRIPLE the benefits you receive from conventional walking.

Also known as backward walking, retro pedaling, retro locomotion etc; retro walking gained immense popularity in the year 2006 when the ‘New York Road Runners’ club held an event called ‘Backwards Mile’ where the participants had to jog backwards. Fitness freaks have once again begun celebrating this sport and trumpeting its health benefits. More than anything, it’s a blessing for your heart. Studies have found that when an athlete walks forward at a given pace, it enables his heart rate to rise to 106 bpm but when walking backward at the same pace his heart rate soars up to 156 bpm. The practice is quite a rage in many parts of Europe, Japan and China as more and more people are beginning to discover its benefits for rehabilitation, muscle building, sports performance, or simply to improve balance and intuitive skills. In fact Europe holds retro races ranging from sprints to 20+ mile marathons!

Benefits of unfollowing suit:

1) It Improves cardiovascular function :

Backward walking can be extremely strenuous because of its difficulty but it definitely treats the body better that its forward walking twin. It puts greater strain on your cardiovascular system thus producing higher heart rate. A 100 steps backward walking is equivalent to 1,000 steps of conventional walking; which means that you can strengthen your heart and at the same time burn calories quicker than forward walking. That extra level of difficulty will summon your extra reserve of energy burning extra calories in return.

2) It’s easy on the leg muscles and joints:

Retro walking strengthens the heart, lungs, muscles, joints, hips, legs and trunk, with minimal stress on any given part of the body. Over time, our leg muscles get used to walking only forward that works out the hamstrings and glutes but retro walking employs and exercises all the unused and by now, weak muscles such as the quadriceps and calves. Retro walking or exercising is also an ideal way to repair joint pain and knee injuries as it is gentler on the knees. There is lesser displacement of the body backward because you punch in a lesser percentage of your body weight; as a result the range of motion of the knee joint is reduced and they experience less trauma and the walker; less discomfort. It is highly recommended for elderly people and those with arthritis-related problems for it is can be an excellent slow paced, low impact workout that is absolutely gentle on the knees.

3) It exercises your body and mind:

When we walk backwards, we obviously cannot see what is happening behind our back so with regular practice our senses automatically build a defense mechanism against potential dangers. This gradually improves balance, peripheral vision and hearing skills. Retro walking is more of a neurobic activity; a physical activity that unofficially invites the brain’s enthusiastic participation. Neurobic activities create a nexus of brand new neural connections in your brain that help you stay mentally sharp, polish your memory and dodge the unwelcome and debilitating guests of later life such as the Alzheimer’s.

Yes, we know we hit the right chord and we know you already are in love with this brand new tune. So before you rewind and play there are a few things you would have to bear in mind:

Take particular care while including this new regime into your walking routine. No matter how exited you are it is always best to begin slow. You can gradually gallop at a pelt once your senses get acclimatized to the newly acquired skills. Ensure your safety by practicing it in a tripping-free, obstacle-free, pothole-free zone.

If you chose the treadmill then start even slower, a mile per hour should work just fine and be ever ready to hit the emergency stop. As you grow pro, you can increase the speed or inclination. DO NOT PERFORM THESE STUNTS IF YOU HAVE BALANCE OR CO-ORDINATION DIFFICULTIES. Also, try not holding on to the handrails. It completely disarrays your body posture and nullifies the wonderful plusses you would otherwise benefit from.

Another safe option is to have a friend-cum henchman who can walk (forward) or jog (forward) beside you and keep a watch on your behalf.

But if luck doesn’t favour, keep looking over your shoulder intermittently to see if someone is in your way. And despite all safeguarding if you still bump into someone who marvels at what could possibly be wrong with you, quickly break into an item number and yell, “Lets dance!”

Not such a bad idea, in ‘retro’spect.

For more information on diet, health and nutrition, please email Harpinder Gill at You are welcome to email us with any question on any health topic. Please allow 24 hours for an answer, and if your query seems requiring an urgent response, expect to hear from us before that time.

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