Walking is a commonly recommended way to get exercise that has several health benefits and can aid with weight loss. For instance, a 2023 meta-analysis indicated that walking 2,337 steps daily could decrease a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and 4,000 steps could lower the chances of all-cause mortality.
“Movement is healthy for a person,” says Dr. Peter Morelli, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the Fit Kids for Life Program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. In addition to Morelli, Healthline spoke with two certified personal trainers who discussed walking backward, why it’s trending, the potential benefits, and how to do it safely.
“Walking backward is generally exactly as it sounds,” says Rebecca Stewart. Coaches and physical therapists have used backward training as a means for cross-training and rehabilitation.
Potential benefits of walking backward
Typically, taking steps back (figuratively speaking) has a negative connotation. Yet, walking backward stands out to professionals for another reason that has nothing to do with its friendliness: It could have some benefits, primarily because of the additional muscles you need to engage in order to perform the movement.
Experts share that benefits of walking can include improvements in: Strength; Cardiopulmonary fitness and health; Posture; Balance; Coordination; Pain, specifically in the back and knee Mobility; Mental well-being; Focus and cognition.
Walking backward puts more emphasis on the quads than walking forward. Strengthening [quad] muscles can lead to better overall leg strength and can be especially helpful for people recovering from certain types of knee injuries.
The quads aren’t the only ones getting a workout. Your calves and ankle muscles get a better workout, too, as they work harder to stabilize your steps. Your core muscles, including your abs and lower back, are more actively involved in keeping you balanced and upright.
Walking backward is also different from walking forward because it requires more mental energy.
Research published in 2019 also indicated that backward locomotions like backward walking could boost a person’s recall function.