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Running backwards might seem a bit weird and look even weirder, but a number of recent studies have provided evidence that it can help with injury recovery, burn more calories and even improve forward running performance.
Researchers at the University of Milan looked at the biomechanics of backwards running and found a number of differences in foot strike patterns, muscles activation patterns and ultimately, energy output. This research found that running backward used up to 30% more energy than running forward.
In a separate backward running study from South Africa, it was found that female college students lost 2.5% more body fat when they replaced usual exercise with 15-45 minute bouts of backward running three times a week.
Another study from Cardiff University examined the use of backward running as a way to reduce the joint compression forces, particularly for individuals suffering from patellofemoral pain. Results showed backward running caused much less impact on the knees compared to forward running.
Along with these results, backward running and walking has also been found to help improve balance and control, which is particularly useful when training older clients. It can also add some much needed variety into a running training program.
All this research indicates that backward running is a valid form of training, which has a number of benefits and ultimately can be used to help improve forward running performance.
Running backwards: soft landing-hard takeoff, a less efficient rebound.
Patellofemoral joint compression forces in backward and forward running.
The effect of backward locomotion training on the body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness of young women.