Walking backwards changes arm synchrony

Whaddya know, you really do keep learning new things even in old age. This new thing isn’t important in any manner that I can fathom, but then again, maybe that’s the next new thing to discover.

Enough preamble! I like to spend a few minutes on every walk to walk backwards. The change in locomotion uses muscles in a different way, or it feels like it does. It’s pleasant, like stretching while still moving.

I suddenly noticed that when walking backwards, my arms switch their swing synchrony with leg movement. When walking forward, the LEFT LEG goes forward at the same time the RIGHT ARM swings forward. But when walking backward, the LEFT LEG naturally goes back at the same time the RIGHT ARM swings FORWARD. Trying to do the opposite is actually awkward.

IOW, when walking backwards, the same-side limbs want to move in the same direction, as in the pace gait (unlike the walk or trot gait).

Try it if you’re frustrated by early onset of winter. If nothing else, I’m curious if other people automatically make that same switch.


Yes, I walk backward up hills because it is the best thing for keeping your knees strong.
Walking backward forces you to use different muscles than you normally would when walking forwards.

About synchronization: I was seated next to this pharmaceutical researcher from UCSF a few year ago, flying from SF to Amman. He showed me videos of patients in their 80s and 90s with terrible Parkinson’s disease and they couldn’t walk. Then they put them on bicycles and they could ride perfectly. They were working on how to target a certain area of the brain.:brain:


Maybe walking backwards has a healthful effect on the brain, similar to how practicing some things with the nondominant hand does?

A bicycling nut and member of the Olken family (which owned the famous Bicycle Exchange in Harvard Square) was severely injured from a car that hit him.

After a long period of being, essentially, vegetative though alive, someone thought to try propping him up on a stationary bike and starting to move his legs in the old familiar motion.

He “woke up” after a bit of that and began the real recovery process!


Backwards up hills?
I’d avoid trips with Jills.
Jack on back in arm swings?
Ahead must watch for wing dings.
For decrepit ole me?
Some sense of linearity.

But then, there I go, off on tangents, again. Or maybe:

1 Like

Where else could you get such an interesting idea?
I’m gonna try it! Txh @pikabike !

I read that it can ameliorate or even eliminate some biomechanical problems. Whether it does or not, I like the change in a repetitive-motion activity.

Gonna see if the Garmin watch acts weird when I walk backwards.

Just basic body mechanics. Your arms are in the same opposite synchrony whether you are walking backwards or forwards. Your body naturally extends the arm that best counterbalances the torque that extending a leg from the hip socket causes when your pelvis rotates to follow it. So walking backwards doesn’t change your body’s overall natural rhythmic movement.

Doesn’t matter what your direction of travel is, the arm that is extended from the direction you are facing has to be opposite of whichever leg is actually moving because your neural feedback “knows” that foot is about to land and shift your weight to that side of the body.

That extended arm acts as a stabilizer on the side about to be unweighted to keep your body and spine more aligned. If you extended the same arm on the same side as the weight transfer, you would feel slightly off balance as well as feel your core rotating at the base of your spine (as if you were most efficiently paddling a kayak.)

I was curious too, so paid attention when I walked backwards today. I first started walking backwards, then looked at my arm synchronization. Same as when I walk forward, opposite. Not a very reliable data point, too easy to have bias, but there it is.

I’ve been told I was backward! Does that also have a healthful effect on the brain? :upside_down_face:

LOL, hmmm. Here is one of a number of articles on why it may be beneficial to walk backwards:

Why walking backwards can be good for your health and brain (bbc.com)

I read that one. So, I am taking that as a good sign for me. My brain needs all the help it can get!! :wink:

1 Like