The Benefits of Walking Backwards on a Treadmill

Walking is a basic human movement which we can sometimes take for granted. But how often do you walk backwards?

If you are like most people who go to the gym, chances are you only use a treadmill to walk, jog or run forward.

But you should consider adding walking backwards into the mix as there are a number of physical and neurological benefits which we will be looking at in this post.


Walking backwards

Key Benefits - Why Walk Backwards on a Treadmill?

What many people may not understand is that walking backwards on a treadmill actually has many different benefits that aren't all that obvious at first glance.

For instance, walking backwards can be excellent for your overall mobility and hamstring flexibility, it helps improve the range of motion in your knee, and much more.

There are about half a dozen benefits closely associated with walking backwards, all of which might be beneficial for you.


Fixing Your Gait

If you are unfamiliar with what your gait is. Your gait is your walking pattern or rhythm.

If you have recently experienced some kind of illness, injury, or surgery, it may be the case that your gait is altered or diminished.

In other words, when you walk forward, your gait might be off, which could result in pain, immobility, or general inflexibility.

However, if you walk backwards, you could very well reset your gait, which could result in walking forwards becoming much easier, safer, and more effective.

Walking backwards is completely different from walking forwards, but the former can definitely affect the latter.

Walking gait markers


Improving Mobility and Balance

Your gait or the way in which you walk is also closely related to mobility and balance.

For instance, if your gait is diminished or has been altered due to injury or surgery, it could also affect your ability to balance. It may also cause you to be much more immobile and inflexible.

Walking backwards trains certain muscles, and because it has the potential to reset your walking gait, it may also be able to improve balance and mobility.

For instance, there are studies out there that detail how walking backwards on a treadmill helps to greatly increase both walking speed and balance in those who have recently suffered a stroke.


Increasing Your Range of Motion

Yet another benefit that you get from walking backwards is that it can increase your range of motion, particularly in terms of your knee extension.

If you've had any kind of injury to your knee, arthritis, or anything else of the sort, it may have resulted in a loss of motion.

In other words, you may have lost your ability to fully extend or straighten your knee.

However, if you walk backwards, your knee actually straightens fully, particularly as you move from your toes to your heel.

Because of the way walking backwards happens, you have no choice but to fully extend your knee.

As is the case with most things out there, the more you train something, the better it gets, and this goes for mobility just like with anything else.

knee mobility


Improving Hamstring Flexibility

Your hamstrings are some of your most important muscles as far as your lower body goes.

For those who don't know, these are the muscles that are on the rear of your upper thighs.

These are the muscles you need to extend your hips, bend your knees, squat down, and in general walk and run effectively.

If you have tight hamstrings, doing any of these activities will be exceedingly difficult, but walking backwards is one way to improve hamstring flexibility.

As your knee swings through the air when walking backwards, it forces your hamstring to contract, and it then extends as you move from your toes to your heel. It's a great way to train the flexibility and mobility of your hamstring.


Benefiting Your Quads

Your quads or quadriceps are the muscles located on the front of your thighs. These are the muscles you use when you straighten your knee.

If you have weak quad muscles or have recently been injured, walking backwards on the treadmill is a good way to regain mobility.

As your knee straightens when you move from your toe to your heel when walking backwards, it activates your quadriceps muscles.

The best way to improve the mobility and function of your quadriceps, at least in this case, is to use the muscle.

Walking on a treadmill


Basic Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Benefits

Something else to consider here is that although walking backwards on the treadmill might not be nearly as intense as running, you'll still burn more calories than if you're just sitting around doing nothing.

In fact, studies show that walking backwards puts more demand on your cardiovascular system and uses more oxygen than walking forward.

In the grand scheme of things, any type of exercise of this nature is beneficial for your cardiovascular system, which means that walking backwards can help to improve the health of your heart and lungs.


Tips for Walking Backwards on a Treadmill

Before we call it a day, let's quickly go over some of the biggest tips that you need to follow when walking backwards on a treadmill, mainly to keep you safe.


Use Safety Lanyards

You should always attach the lanyard from the treadmill's safety key to a piece of your clothing so that if you stray too far away from the machine, it will pull the safety key and stop the treadmill.

All treadmills come with a safety key as standard and should be used whenever using a treadmill whether you are walking forwards or backwards as they can prevent serious injuries.

 treadmill safety clip

Start Slow

When using a treadmill to walk backwards, make sure that you start off going at the very lowest speed possible, especially when you are first giving it a go.

Some people may choose to increase the speed when walking backwards as they progress, but it's certainly recommended to start slow while you are still getting used to the movement.


Hold onto the Railings

We recommend only using a treadmill that has a handrail so that you can support yourself. This will help provide you with extra stability and help you focus on your walking form.


The Proper Backward Walking Motion

To walk backwards properly, reach back with one leg and land on your toes, and then slowly roll onto your heel while straightening your knee.

In essence, you are really doing the exact opposite as you would do when walking forward.


How to Stop Walking Backwards on a Treadmill

If you are done walking backwards on the treadmill, just stop moving and make sure to step down onto the ground. If possible, have someone stop the treadmill for you as this will make life even easier.


How Long to Walk Backwards For?

Depending on your condition and what goal you are looking to achieve, it is recommended that you walk backwards for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes at a time.


Final Thoughts

The bottom line here is that although walking backwards is not something that everyone will do, if you want to look after your knees or if you’ve experienced some kind of leg injury or other issue causing immobility, it can certainly be helpful.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.