Improve fitness, strength and brain function: Walk this way


Even if you loathe exercise and the idea of running or weightlifting sends shivers down your spine, there’s a simple way to enhance your health: walking.

Scientific studies have consistently linked walking to improved physiological markers, including heart health, mental well-being, cognitive function, and increased longevity. Walking thousands of steps daily is an effortless path to a healthier and happier life.

Now, it appears there’s a way to make your daily stroll even more beneficial.

Woman walking (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

The catch?

This method might raise eyebrows and provoke curiosity, especially if you’re not living on a desert island far from civilization. However, if you’re open to a novel and intriguing approach to enhance your walking experience, read on.

A study published last year in the National Library of Medicine explored the unexpected and unique advantages of walking backward. Yes, you read that correctly – walking backward.

The study aimed to investigate how this unconventional walking style impacts knee health and found it to be an excellent means of reducing knee problems, pain, and inflammation. But that’s not the only surprising outcome of choosing to walk in reverse. Over the years, several studies have explored this distinctive walking style, yielding results that have left us astounded.


Surprising Benefits for the Brain and Nervous System

Dr. Pal Manickam, a gastroenterologist who specializes in digestive system diseases, shared his insights about walking backward on his popular Instagram page, which quickly went viral worldwide. According to Manickam, walking backward can uniquely enhance the endurance of leg muscles.

He said that walking backward forces people to take small, frequent steps, which can increase the endurance of the lower leg muscles. While people typically walk faster forward, walking backward prevents that. Therefore, adopting this method with small steps can be beneficial for those seeking to strengthen leg muscles and tissues.

Furthermore, other experts have noted that walking backward improves balance and coordination, as it demands greater concentration and attention. These factors have a direct impact on the “cerebellum,” the brain region responsible for motor control throughout the body.

Keep Walking, Regardless of the Style

Whether you choose to embrace this unconventional walking style or prefer the conventional approach to avoid raised eyebrows and judgmental glances, the key is to ensure you walk at least 150 minutes per week, in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation.

If you decide to incorporate backward walking into your exercise routine, Manickam suggests that it may further enhance physical fitness and upper body strength. This form of walking requires more energy than typical exercise, potentially aiding calorie burn, weight loss, and long-term weight management.

He said that walking backward also offers posture benefits, allowing people to maintain a more natural spinal position, which is often compromised when we bend forward or sit for extended periods. Additionally, it has been shown to enhance gait and flexibility, particularly beneficial for older individuals struggling with other forms of physical activity. It serves as a potent ‘remedy’ for the inevitabilities of aging, promoting youthful energy and vitality at any age.

As for the cognitive benefits mentioned earlier, experts like Manickam believe that this unique walking style, which stimulates the brain in an unconventional manner, may hold potential advantages. These could include improved nervous system function, enhanced critical thinking skills, and the preservation and enhancement of memory abilities over time.

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