Michael Mosley has shared a ‘simple but weird’ exercise that burns calories, helps with back pain and also gives your brain a boost. Dr. Mosley, who is well known for his versions of the 5:2 and Fast 800 meal plans, said the unusual practice of walking backwards can have significant health benefits.
As reported by Wales Online, speaking on his Radio 4 show and podcast, he said: “Most of all it helps with those shins that I sometimes have in my back and knees. Right. I think. Stop. Now. Now, this is a technique that has been used in physical therapy for decades to rehabilitate leg injuries. It can improve your gait and mobility. And there are a surprising number of good scientific studies that show that walking backwards can also sharpen your memory and your problem-solving skills.”
The diet guru said that he was amazed that something so strange could have such a big impact: “When I heard about it, I was really intrigued that something so simple and frankly strange, could have such a big effect. It can be done on to a treadmill, but with care and a clear path, you can do it safely in your home or outside.
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Dr. Mosley explained that it can be done on a treadmill in a gym, as long as there is a rail to hold it, or it can be done at home, but you have to make sure you have a clear path. Dr. Mosley said it was best to be outside if there is someone who can guide you.
One of the first American pioneers of exercise was Patrick Harmon who more than a century ago walked back from San Francisco to New York City. Dr Mosley added: “More recently, it has been taken up by physiotherapists as a treatment for back pain, balance and gait.”
He said that studies have found that walking backwards uses about 30% more energy compared to walking forwards at the same speed. Dr. Mosley added: “A South African study found that healthy volunteers lost an average of 2.5 percent of their body fat when they added walking back to their exercise regimen. Why could that be? Well, walking backwards uses muscles that are less active during walking forwards, such as your calves and shins, as well as your quadriceps.
“A small Texan study found that blood lactate levels were three times higher when they walked backwards. And this is a measure of how well the muscles are working. What is perhaps more surprising is that reverse walking seems to boost the short-term memory.Researchers from the University of Roehampton in the United Kingdom, asked 100 volunteers to watch a video, then walk forward, backward or stand still.
“Bizarrely. The group that walked behind still remembered more about the video than the others.”
Professor Janet Dufek of the University of Nevada Las Vegas said: “I think the main benefits are the different use of the major muscle groups and that they have some ramifications related to muscle flexibility, back pain, specifically because of the way the muscles are used. And I think the one that really surprised me the most, although it should not be improved, stability and balance.
“I think walking backwards might help reduce back pain because of the fact that the hamstrings, the muscles on the back of your legs, stretch when you walk backwards and having that stretch allows for greater range of movement and therefore reduces the stress on the back.
Professor Dufek added about the studies he had carried out: “The work we did was with a small cohort of athletes and they all did this step backwards for five weeks. And what we found is that 80% of them self-reported reduced back pain for the primary majority of athletes. It was really beneficial and we did a really interesting study of back flexibility.”
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