It’s fairly common knowledge that walking has major health benefits. Simply going for a stroll is something that has been proven to enhance health, improve mood, and even reduce back pain. Despite all these health benefits, walking is hardly a number one passion for many people. The fact that it can improve back pain is also an under-reported benefit of walking. But, what you might not know is that a specific type of walking could actually provide the same (or better) benefits to the back.
In general, walking is good for the back for a variety of reasons. It helps loosen up and stretch out the muscles, and it also simply helps your brain focus less on the back pain. When you start walking, your brain starts to prioritize the larger nerve endings in your legs. Since the nerve endings in your back are smaller, the “pain” signal from the brain is not prioritized and it never gets to the back. Walking is also known to release endorphins and serotonin which both make you feel good mentally and physically. So, the scientific basis behind the health advantages of walking is certainly there.
But it may surprise you to learn that walking backwards also has the same health benefits for your back. Although walking backwards isn’t easy to master, it has been shown to significantly reduce back pain in those suffering from lower back problems. One study followed participants (some of whom had back pain and some of whom didn’t) as they walked backward on a treadmill for at least 15 minutes every day. The group of participants who had back pain all showed marked improvements over the course of three weeks. All of the people with back pain also saw a decrease in shock attenuation (the measurement of the effect that each footfall has on the body).
The reasons for this are rather clear. Walking backwards forces you to toe hitting the ground first rather than your heel. So, you’re not putting as much pressure on either your feet or your entire body. This can also be beneficial for the alignment of your pelvis and the alleviation of stress on your spinal discs. It is essentially like giving your body a little momentary buoyancy and it allows your back to loosen up and feel more comfortable. Of course, walking backwards and walking forwards both offer great health benefits, so you should probably mix in a combination of the two into your regimen.
All that being said, it’s important to be careful before you jump onto a treadmill and start walking backwards. The participants in the study mentioned above were all athletic and likely had good balance. Not everyone is as lithely built, so you’ll want to put in some practice and maybe have a spotter nearby if you want to try walking backwards on a regular basis. In any event, it’s an interesting health tip that could give you some relief from back pain. You might soon be walking backwards everywhere if it makes your back feel better.
Author: Lance Michaels is a personal trainer in Indianapolis, Indiana. He spends most of his time helping people gain strength while alleviating pain associated with working out.