Should we be “Running in Reverse”?
Danny Responds to Gretchen Reynolds's article “Running in Reverse” published in the NY Times Magazine Blog “Well”.
Thanks, Gretchen. The reason why the balance is improved by Parkinson’s patients and others who have balance issues, is because when you walk backwards you have to engage your core muscles in order to do so. So, when you return to walking forward again, you do so with a stronger sense of stabilizing your forward leaning torso with your core muscles. When I’m teaching ChiWalking classes, I always have walkers walk backwards and feel where their torso is, relative to their feet (torso is bent forward at the hips). Then, while holding the same body position, I have them walk forwards and it completely changes (for the better) the way they carry themselves as they walk. Most walkers rely on almost no core strength and this easy exercise allows them to feel their core working while they walk.
Running backwards does a similar thing, in that if you run backwards and then, without changing your body position, run forward again, you’ll feel yourself engaging your core and leaning forward when you run… which, for most people, helps to eliminate heel strike (which has been proven to be hard on the knees).
One last comment on the benefits of backwards running or walking, is that it allows your brain to “rest” by moving in a non-mechanical and patterned way. Lord knows, we humans are all a wee bit mechanical in our habitual movements and it’s always good to mix it up a bit to keep your brain healthy and protect it against “mechanical” thinking as well. Thanks for the food for thought.
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