Backward Walking

The Effect of Repeated Bouts of Backward Walking on Physiologic Efficiency
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2002, 16(3), 451-455
Previous studies have demonstrated increased energy expenditure with novel tasks.  With practice, the energy cost decreases as the body more efficiently recruits motor units.  This study examined whether one becomes more efficient after repeated bouts of backward walking.  This finding suggests that backward walking is indeed a novel task and that motor learning occurs as a result of practice, leading to a more efficient recruitment of motor units.
It has been demonstrated that backward locomotion leads to increased quadriceps strength and power, yet it minimizes the patellofemoral joint reaction forces.  Because quadriceps strengthening under conditions that minimize patellofemoral joint reaction forces is a common rehabilitation goal in individuals with patellofemoral pain, backward walking has been suggested as a potential intervention for this population.  Additionally, knee flexion increases in elevation during backward walking.  Because increasing knee flexion is desired during walking for individuals in rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, backward walking has also been suggested as a potential intervention in these patients.  It has also been shown that backward locomotion has an increased metabolic cost and cardiopulmonary demand compared with forward locomotion at the same speed.  Thus if backward walking is utilized in individuals with these knee injuries, it many also be sufficient to maintain, or even increase, aerobic fitness.  Previous studies have demonstrated that backward walking requires oxygen uptake (V02) at levels that have been suggested to produce a cardiovascular training effect.  Our finding is consistent with the hypothesis that efficiency increases when a task is no longer novel.  As motor learning effects occur over time and the body recruits motor units more efficiently, the backward walking speed must be increased to maintain the given energy expenditure.

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