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National Backward Day 2023

I’m excited about this wacky day! Why? Because, I am always looking to make things efficient, mindless, and simple. I immediately make my bed when I get out of it. I take my vitamins with my coffee and water in the morning, etc. But what if I WANT to make my brain work and shake things up a little? Well, today is a good day for that!

Challenging in Reverse

In a Forbes article, The Surprising Benefits Of Working Backward (1), Akiko Busch talks about his experience of walking a routine path backwards with his friend while trying to observe an eagle & this not only changed his perspective, but he recognized the reward to doing things in reverse. He further describes how clinical neuropsychologist, Christine Weber, explains the benefits to reversing the order: “This forces the brain to think in a different way — it’s a rewiring and changes focus”. “When you do something you are unaccustomed to, the signals are different,” Weber adds. “This speaks to a plasticity in the brain. And novel things require more cognitive energy; they are not ingrained. As in walking backward — you are not used to it. It requires extra effort.”

This got me inspired- there is no better day than today, Try It Tuesday, to try walking backwards!!

Why would I want to do things backwards?

Walking backwards can benefit your brain, help keep your knees strong, as well as burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness.

Brain Boost: Another great article by The Age Well Project summarizes nicely how participants in a study, “It Takes Me Back: The Mnemonic Time Travel Effect”, had better recollection than those that walked forward. “In all cases, people involved in reverse motion (either real or imagined) were better able to recall information than those sitting still. In five of the six experiments, memory was better when people moved backwards than when they moved forwards. On average, the boost in memory lasted for 10 minutes after people stopped moving” (2, 3)

Knee Strong: Walking backwards utilizes muscles in an unconventional way, and challenges your spatial awareness, balance, and stability. It can strengthen your quads & potentially help with knee pain and quicker recovery from injuries.

  • Study 1: “Conclusions- the 6-week retro walking program compared with forward walking or control groups resulted in greater reduction in pain and functional disability and improved quadriceps muscle strength and performance in individuals with knee OA” (4).

  • Study 2: “Even though backward walking is not practiced in day-to-day life, it is effective in stimulating muscles of the knee joints and quadriceps in a more balanced manner). Therefore, it appears that people who complain of pain in the knees may note some positive therapeutic effects with backward walking exercise”. “In addition, in order to prevent monotony while performing backward walking alone, a walking exercise program that combines forward and side walking would be necessary”. (5)

Burn Calories & Improve Cardio Fitness:

If you look at the data from The Compendium of Physical Activities, you will find:

Walking (3.5 mph) = 4.3 METs

Walking backward (3.5 mph) = 6.0 METs

Walking backwards (3.5 mph) w/ 5% grade= 8.0 METs (6)

Note: METs are a unit for your energy expenditure; 1 MET = energy you spend while sitting (7)

  • A study with 26 female students (18-23) found, “that backward walk/run training improves cardiorespiratory fitness for both forward and backward exercise and causes significant changes in body composition in young women.” (8)

Try It:

When walking backwards, you should consider (a) your ability and stability and (b) your surroundings, making sure they are clear of objects to trip over. A great place to start is on a treadmill at a very slow pace while holding on the the railings.

Backwards walking can be a great addition to your program from time to time to add variety & to challenge your body in a unique way!


1. Busch, Akiko. “The Surprising Benefits of Working Backward”. Forbes. Jul 01, 2013.

2. Aksentijevic, Aleksandar, K. R. Brandt, E. Tsakanikos, and M. J. A. Thorpe. “It Takes Me Back: The Mnemonic Time Travel Effect.” Cognition. 2019 January. 182:242-50. Epub 2018 October 24.

3. Annabel. “Improve Your Memory By Walking Backwards, Throwing Parties and Other Things Besides …”. The Age-Well Project.Apr 27, 2019.

4. Ahmad H. Alghadir, Shahnawaz Anwer, Bibhuti Sarkar, Ashis K. Paul & Dilshad Anwar. "Effect of 6-week retro or forward walking program on pain, functional disability, quadriceps muscle strength, and performance in individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial (retro-walking trial)”. Apr 09, 2019. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 159 (2019).

5. Hyun-Gyu Cha, Tae-Hoon Kim, and Myoung-Kwon Kim. “Therapeutic efficacy of walking backward and forward on a slope in normal adults”. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016 Jun; 28(6): 1901–1903. PMID: 27390443.

6. Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, Meckes N, Bassett DR Jr, Tudor-Locke C, Greer JL, Vezina J, Whitt-Glover MC, Leon AS. 2011 "Compendium of Physical Activities: a second update of codes and MET values". Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Aug;43(8):1575-81. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821ece12. PMID: 21681120. ;

7. Roland, James. “What Exactly Are METs, and What Should You Know About Them?”. Healthline. Oct 21, 2019.

8. E. Terblanche1 , C. Page1 , J. Kroff1 , R. E. Venter. “The Effect of Backward Locomotion Training on the Body Composition and Cardiorespiratory Fitness of Young Women”. International Journal of Sports Medicine 2005; 26(3): 214-219. DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-820997.

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