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I recently shared about the book 52 Ways to Walk. You can check out a review of the book HERE.
Although I’m excited to try out all 52 ways of walking, as suggested in the book, I found myself derailed.
I initially selected, randomly, a walk with others activity. And then the weather turned incredibly hot with temps at or above 100 degrees daily. Excuses, excuses.
Eventually I found a group to walk with and I’ll enjoy that shared activity with them soon. For my first walk from the book, I chose this one: #49 Walk Backward.
And yes…it is exactly what it sounds like!
Why Walk Backward?
There’s a fun story behind this walking activity.
In 1931 a Texan named Plennie Wingo decided to walk backward around the world. After practicing for six months, Wingo set out from Santa Monica, California with a stout walking stick for balance and tiny mirrors attached to his glasses so that he could see behind him.
Wingo walked backward across the US to Boston, Massachusetts. He sailed from Boston to Germany and continued his backward walk. Although he was jailed in Turkey, Wingo eventually completed a walk of 7,000 miles…all in reverse. He gained recognition as the Guiness record holder for “greatest extent of reverse pedestrianism” and lived to the amazing age of 98. Wingo attributed his good health to regularly walking backward.
The Health Benefits of Walking Backward
It seems that Wingo discovered a truth.
According to recent studies, the best way to improve walking forward is to occasionally walk in reverse. Doing so strengthens the lower body while improving balance and stability.
Plus when we walk backward without using our eyes to see ahead, we learn to rely on something called proprioception, a system of neurons embedded in our joints, muscles and limbs that work with our senses to communicate with our central nervous system and brain.
Researchers speculate that walking backward requires unfamiliar, more complex movements, enhancing proprioception abilities along with balance and perception.
Walking in reverse demands more physically as well as we start on the toes and roll to the heel. (Wingo went through 13 pairs of shoes on his historical walk.) We engage the shin muscles and glutes differently and lengthen out hamstrings.
Backward walking aligns the spine and pelvis, reduces lower back pain, strengthens knee joints and improves stride and gait.
Tips for Walking Backward
Engaging in this activity requires some care. Wingo sprained one ankle and broke the other and he caused a car accident.
For safety, walk in a familiar area that is level and without obstacles. Ask a friend or family member to join you, walking forward and serving as a guide.
Focus on each step, walking slowly and pushing off the toe then rolling to the heel. Let arms swing naturally and keep back straight and head centered.
Keep the walk short if this is your first time walking backward. If you enjoy this activity build up to longer backward walks.
My Experience Walking Backward
I chose my neighborhood for this backward walk. Greg accompanied me as my guide and to offer an arm if I felt unsteady. My neighborhood contains fairly new sidewalks, making a smooth, level surface to walk upon.
Due to the heat, even in the morning hours, we kept the distance short and I didn’t walk backward the whole way. After climbing a hill part way, I turned around and walked in reverse for a while. And then I returned to normal walking for a distance before reversing again.
Immediately I noticed a difference in my lower back and legs. I could feel muscles working in ways I don’t notice when walking normally. Although the distance was just under a mile, I later experienced a bit of soreness in my left leg and foot from the unaccustomed gait. The discomfort quickly disappeared.
Overall, it was a fun and unique experience. And not one person looked at me strangely…well maybe Greg did…and no one ran off the road while driving by due to the unusual sight of a woman walking backward!
To receive the most benefits, I intend to include walking backward as a regular activity.
Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk
Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.
I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. And it inspires me to create other interesting walks as well.
Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.