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Nov 19, 2012 by TAMMY McKENZIE
Stimulate Your Fitness IQ By Walking Backwards


The same old routines in any fitness regimen can get old fast. The body continuously adapts and may be very slow in breaking through plateaus if novelty is not introduced at specific periods within a fitness cycle. One of the easiest ways to break our muscle memory is to change the focus of how we contract our muscles, forcing our joint receptors to sense our movement differently. Instead of walking forward, walk backward.


Many people in Japan practice walking or running backward. It is also the ancient Chinese tradition of walking backward for health. According to the theories of modern sports science, walking backwards promotes good blood circulation and metabolism and helps prevent lumbago. It also increases the bearing capacity of your knees, and strengthens the muscles and ligaments of the joints. As you must balance yourself when you walk backwards, the exercise improves the functions of your cerebellum, which coordinates and balances your bodily movements, as well as the flexibility of your body.

A big plus? It burns more calories if you're not used to it. Try it out for a minute and you will find that it’s not as easy as walking forward. You’ll have to focus carefully on each step because you’re learning a new skill and that requires extra energy and focus, which taxes your cardiovascular system, which in turn burns more calories while strengthening muscles and joints that are working very differently in terms of biomechanics.

Experts Give Go-ahead to Walking Backwards

Dr Hasmukh Ravat, Senior Interventional Cardiologist says a workout like this can set the right pace as there is a heart attack risk in tougher endurance sports. "Very strenuous exercise is associated with the actual deaths of heart-muscle cells," he warns. "A theory suggests that heightened adrenaline levels sometimes observed during prolonged exercise rather perversely lead to the constriction of coronary arteries, which results in localised cell death within the heart. So this seems a good thing but do not bend the knee while walking and choose an obstacle-free path."

Adds trainer Zarine Watson, "Retrowalking is a great way to stay fit. Because it's a harder activity for the body to perform, the calorific expenditure is quite high. It sharpens other senses and the step one takes is shorter, so it has a lesser impact on the joints." It can be done in the gym or even on a treadmill. You could have a partner as your 'eyes' in front of you.

Researchers conducted a study at the University of Oregon on retro walking and its benefits and found some exciting results. The results showed that it can give your workouts a boost because it puts a greater strain on your cardiovascular system than forward walking at the same pace. That means you can burn more calories while walking backwards than you would moving forward.

Benefits

Moving forward works your hamstrings and your gluteus maximus (otherwise known as your rear end!). Walk backwards and you ’ll strengthen your quadriceps and calves. By walking in both directions, you’ll get a great lower body workout.

100 steps backward walking is equivalent to 1,000 steps conventional walking. Increases balance and vision Is good for the hips, legs, and trunk. Improves brain clarity and can burn up to 25% more calories than walking forwards in one hour.


Tammy McKenzie is a certified personal trainer and fitness specialist with a speciality in women's fitness.

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