A new year, new challenges, and new goals. What are yours? And do they include becoming fitter and doing more exercise?

It’s a time when many of us look to improve on what we have done previously and /or find different and innovative ways to achieve our goals. This often happens when we recommit to exercise and looking after ourselves.

Benefits of walking

We are all familiar with the benefits of walking, and the target of 10,000 steps per day. Walking regularly is a great way to help us work on our balance. When we do walk we are in fact balancing on one leg at a time – even if it is for a very short period.

Our ability to walk is more complex than most of us appreciate. Three systems in our bodies – our visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive – need to work together in order for us to remain upright.

Walking and doing other balance exercises that strengthen our legs are great ways to maintain our independence and mobility as we get older. For example, standing on one leg improves balance and can improve bone density in older people.

However, have you considered walking backwards?

It is more of a challenge for our brains and bodies because when we walk backwards it contributes to improving our stability and balance.

Other benefits from walking backwards have been found to include how it can help our gait (how we walk) when moving forward, those with knee osteoarthritis and people with chronic back pain, we use more of the muscles that support our lumbar spine. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6391229/)

Another valuable benefit is that our energy expenditure is almost 40 per cent higher than when walking forwards. One piece of research showed reductions in body fat in women who participated in a 6 week backwards walking programme (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15776337/).

So, if you do want to try walking backwards, safety is important as we are more likely to bump into things. A good idea is to start inside or somewhere that you know is flat. Avoid turning and twisting around, keep looking forward and roll the feet through from toe to heel.