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Is the TikTok Trend Good for You? – SheKnows

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We love a good TikTok trend, but you really have to be… discerning about the ones you try, especially when they promise to change some aspect of your health or body. (Vagina trends, we’re looking at you.) But that’s not to say that your For You page doesn’t have some gems to offer when it comes to health and fitness (silent walking is one of our favorites), and we recently found one that might actually work. It’s called retro walking, and it’s basically regular walking… but backwards. And it might just have some serious benefits.

If you’re rolling your eyes, let us explain. Walking backwards, also called retrograde walking or retro walking, is done either outside or on a treadmill, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: walking while facing the opposite direction that you’re moving. TikTok creator @Kali.ot, an occupational therapist, calls walking backwards “the best thing you can do to make your knees stronger,” saying, “I add a few minutes of this to my workout and it makes a huge difference.”

MMA fighter @kaytlinkatnissmma is a fan for similar reasons. “I had two knee surgeries within a year period,” she explains in one video. “I’ve seen a huge difference in my knees ever since I’ve started walking backwards. I love it.”

Sounds promising, but we wanted to ask a few experts to make sure walking backwards can actually benefit our knees before we hop on the treadmill.

Walking backwards: benefits for knee pain

“Backwards walking can be beneficial for individuals with knee pain,” physical therapist Dody Deavours of AICA Orthopedics tells SheKnows, because it actually reduces stress on your knee joints. “Backwards walking emphasizes the posterior muscle groups, such as the hamstrings and glutes, rather than the quadriceps, which are typically overused in traditional forward walking,” Deavours explains. That shift in muscle engagement can lead to “a more balanced muscle strength around the knee, potentially reducing pain and improving joint function.” Plus, backwards walking can help you “enhance gait mechanics and hamstring flexibility,” physiotherapist Louise Hateley of In Stride Clinic tells SheKnows.

Decreasing the impact on your knees like this can have some surprisingly effective results. Deavours notes that it can help people suffering from conditions like patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain in the front of the knee or around the kneecap) or knee osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease usually caused by cartilage wear and tear, per Cleveland Clinic). And the science backs it up, with 2019 study finding that a six-week backwards walking program helped reduce pain and disability while strengthening quad muscle strength in patients with knee osteoarthritis.


How to walk backwards safely

Walking backwards sounds simple, but it’s important to start slowly, Hateley cautions. “Utilize the handrails [on the treadmill] to help you balance and start with five- to 10-minute sessions,” she suggests. “As your comfort and stamina increase, you can progressively extend the duration.” Deavours recommends doing two to three of these short sessions per week to start, as long as it doesn’t worsen any existing knee pain.

You can walk backwards on a treadmill or outside. While walking outside is more accessible, using a treadmill is typically safer because “it provides a predictable, flat surface and handrails for balance,” Deavours says. “If opting for outdoor walking, choose a familiar, flat path and have a companion for safety.” You should also make sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes, keep your posture straight, and prioritize safety (no trips, slips, or falls here).

And while walking backwards can definitely help with knee pain within a larger strengthening or rehab program, “it shouldn’t take the place of other necessary exercises,” Hateley notes. If knee pain is something you struggle with, Deavours adds, other ways to find relief include strengthening the muscles around your knees (quads, hamstrings, glutes), stretching your lower body muscles, and doing low-impact activities like swimming and cycling to relieve stress on the knee.

As with any new exercise routine, you should also make sure to talk to your doctor before trying backwards walking, and stop if you continue to feel knee pain. Once you’ve gotten the green light, though, grab those handrails and give this funny-looking but seriously effective trend a chance.

Before you go, check out these essential gym items for rest and recovery:

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