The Surprising Benefits Of Walking Backwards On The Treadmill

The internet is always finding new ways to walk. With the rise in popularity of #HotGirlWalks, 12-3-30 treadmill routines, and others, what was once a casual means of exercise has evolved into a niche subgenre that’s taken on a whole new form.

If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that getting daily exercise doesn’t have to rely on whether we have access to a fully-equipped gym. In fact, leaning into the simplistic, yet effective practice of walking can lead to weight loss and muscle growth — and one new TikTok trend, involving people walking backward, is proving just that.

Retro Movement: Breaking Down Walking Backwards

Backward walking is an exercise that enhances body balance, strengthens lower limb muscles, and addresses cardiovascular and lower limb joint conditions. Walking backward, otherwise known as retro movement, is a practice that dates back to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and can include activities like backward walking, backward running, or performing exercises in the reverse order.

Retro movement exercises are often used to challenge different muscle groups and engage the body in ways that forward movements may not. When moving forward, the action predominantly engages the hamstrings, conversely, when walking backward, there is a role reversal, with the quadriceps becoming more activated.

The Benefits of Walking Backwards on a Treadmill

The benefits of walking backwards have proven to be both physical and mental. A recent study found that 30 minutes of walking backward on a treadmill three times a week for four weeks increased balance, speed of walking, and cardiopulmonary fitness in participants. Whether you choose to take a reversed approach to walking on the treadmill or while outdoors, the benefits will still pay off.

Switching the direction that you walk can seem like a minor shift, but a clinical trial by the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that female participants who engaged in backward walking enhanced their cardiorespiratory fitness level and significant changes in their body composition. Similarly, additional studies show that subjects with knee pain who took part in retro walking compared to forward walking saw a significant decrease in pain and functional disability, along with notable enhancements in quadriceps muscle strength and performance.

If you’re looking to reverse your normal walking routine and give your muscles a low-impact burn, here are some steps to help you get started:


The benefits of walking backwards on the treadmill are both physical and mental.

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Be sure to start with an open space, free of obstacles, and opt for a flat surface to ensure safety. Begin with slow and controlled backward walking to get used to the movement, focusing on maintaining balance and control throughout. Start slowly, and as you become more comfortable, gradually increase the pace and intensity of your backward walking.

A 10-20 minute session, two to three times a week, is recommended to feel a proper burn and see results over time. Gradually increase as your strength and comfort level improves.

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