What about Going Backward

In a gym, you’ll see people pedaling backward on a stationary cycle or walking backward on a stepper in attempts to target different muscle groups or to increase the intensity of their workout. The same holds true for elliptical trainers, as most commercial models allow the user to go forward or backward.

But is there any benefit to the backward motion? A study found that when users went backward, they actually burned 7 percent more calories than when going forward.3 However, a study at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse laboratory failed to substantiate this claim, and found that at identical speeds and resistance levels, exercising forward and backward on the Precor Transport resulted in the same intensity workout.2 Thus, it appears that the jury is still out on the backward issue from an energy-cost point of view, but going backward can provide variety to a workout, and future studies using electromyographs (EMG) may shed light on the muscle usage question.

The bottom line

Since a larger number of people are reaching an older age, more and more exercisers are seeking low-impact exercise alternatives. It has long been recognized that one of the major benefits of walking is that it is a low-impact activity, which results in relatively few orthopedic injuries to the lower extremities.

A major drawback for more fit individuals, however, is that there is an upper limit to the workout intensity of walking. Elliptical trainers may be able to fill this void, as they can provide exercise over a wide range of exercise intensities, while minimizing the potential for lower extremity injuries. FM

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