Here's a good way to keep moving but take some of the pressure off your knees: Just put one foot behind the other.
Yep, walking backward puts less strain on your patellofemoral joint – an important kneecap-to-thighbone connection. Pain in this joint is common. It accounts for approximately 25 percent of knee injuries in athletes according to one study. So, the less stress you put on it, the better! And walking backwards is one way to do that.
In fact, researchers found that the same goes for running. A 2012 study showed that running backwards puts less pressure on the patellofemoral joint than forward running and could be useful for preventing injury or rehabilitation. But let’s walk before we run, shall we?
Okay, you won't want to do this in an area that is highly trafficked, unlevel or unfamiliar. But under the right (safe) circumstances, walking in reverse gear will make your quadriceps muscles contract differently than they do when you're walking forward. It will cause a concentric contraction – a movement that's gentler on your anterior cruciate ligament, a knee ligament professional athletes routinely injure. Guess some NFL running backs could use this trick...
Before you start
If you want to try backward walking, go slow until you get the hang of it. Don't try it for the first time on a treadmill, and maybe invite a spotter along. If you've got knee problems of any sort, check with your doctor first.
And consider these other ways to stay active while staving off knee trouble:
- Sweat it out. Cardio exercise can actually increase the amount of protective cartilage in your knees.
- Buffer your joints. Strength training bolsters more than your bones and muscles.
- Move your hips. Hip muscles are key to helping prevent knee pain.