Want to get fitter? 'Run backwards'

According to them, running backwards reduces impact on the joints and helps cope with knee and back problems. Overall it is a more efficient way of moving -- in fact a fast-forward route to fitness.

A study at the University of Oregon has suggested that reverse runners need to move at only 80 per cent of the speed of forward runners to gain the same physiological and fitness benefits.

Another study at Stellenbosch University in South Africa has shown that the technique can improve cardiovascular fitness, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

For this study, researchers looked at the effects of a six-week, thrice-weekly backward-running programme on female students compared with a group who stuck to their regular activity schedule.

At the end of the study, the reverse runners were found to have significant decreases in oxygen consumption, meaning they had become aerobically fitter, and had lost an average 2.5 per cent body fat.

James Bamber, organiser of the UK's backward races, says there are other subtle advantages. "Because you land and push off from the forefoot, your big toes are strengthened, which aids good posture.

"It improves co-ordination and has been proven to help cognitive functioning and reaction speed as a result," he was quoted as saying.

Bamber says that running one lap of an athletics track backwards provides the fitness equivalent of running six laps forwards and that 100 steps in reverse produces the same benefits as 1,000 steps straight ahead.

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