Ask Uncle Wang-August 14

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-13 18:23:02

Q: Dear Uncle Wang,

Every morning when I go for a run in the park I see old Chinese men walking backwards and clapping their hands.

Why do they do that?

A: There is a very old Chinese belief that walking backwards for 100 steps is equal to walking forwards for 1,000 steps.

Chinese have been walking backwards to maintain good health since the ancient times.

Walking backwards exercises muscles that are not used in ordinary walking, especially in the back, waist, thighs, knees and lower legs.


Walking backwards is more tiring than walking forwards and in general it will give you a better cardio workout and will burn more calories.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), walking backwards is a good way to relax one's back muscles; it can relieve back pain and can also benefit the kidneys.

Elderly people have weaker muscles and backward walking can strengthen different muscles than walking forward does.

Backward walking is also said to be ideal for people who have knee problems or injuries as it puts less strain on and requires less range of motion from knee joints.

Walking backwards raises your heart rate higher than when you walk forward, meaning that you can get better cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits in a shorter period of time.

Some studies have also found that backward walking can have beneficial effects on your brain.

According to some researchers, when you walk backwards, it sharpens your thinking skills and enhances cognitive control. When you break your routine, it stimulates your brain in a different way.

It can also enhance your vision, since you move in an atypical way.

Some people will also clap their hands as they walk, believing it is good for their blood flow, and as a result, it improves their immune systems.

In TCM it is believed that the palm of the hand has many acupuncture points and clapping is a way to massage these points. This helps to expel, through the fingertips, the cold and toxins in the body.

According to TCM theory, the most beneficial method is to clap your hands in front and behind you, every four to five steps.

These days, backward walking, or "retro-walking," is also becoming increasingly popular in the West and Japan, where people practice it to build muscles and improve sports performance.

Some superstitious Chinese also believe that walking backwards will help them to correct their past mistakes and sins.

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Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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