Can TikTok’s Walking Backward Trend Really Help You Improve Fitness and Lose Weight?

Can TikTok’s Walking Backward Trend Really Help You Improve Fitness and Lose Weight?
  • Walking has long been recommended to improve physical and mental health outcomes.
  • Traditionally, people put one foot in front of the other. However, a new TikTok trend shows people gravitating toward walking backward.
  • Experts say that walking backward activates different muscle groups and even works the mind in other ways, giving way to potential health benefits.

Racking up millions of views on TikTok is a new fitness trend that’s not-so-new: walking backward.

Simply walking is a commonly recommended way to get exercise that has several health benefits and can aid with weight loss.

For instance, a 2023 meta-analysis indicated that walking 2,337 steps daily could decrease a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and 4,000 steps could lower the chances of all-cause mortality.

In all likelihood, the participants in these studies mostly walked forward. Yet, head over to TikTok and search “walking backward,” and you’ll see videos that have already been viewed a combined 24 million times.

However, research shows this trend may actually have some health benefits, too.

“Movement is healthy for a person,” says Dr. Peter Morelli, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the Fit Kids for Life Program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “Walking backward is a way to mix it up and cross-train in a sense. Anything like that is always a positive thing.”

In addition to Morelli, Healthline spoke with two certified personal trainers who discussed walking backward, why it’s trending, the potential benefits, and how to do it safely.

Exactly what is the walking backward trend on TikTok?

This one is pretty straightforward.

“Walking backward is generally exactly as it sounds,” says Rebecca Stewart, CPT, a personal trainer and the founder of MovementFX. “Most viral TikToks show backward walking on a treadmill, but it can be done on a path or outdoors, too.”

Walking backward, also called “retrowalking,” isn’t new.

Coaches and physical therapists have used backward training as a means for cross-training and rehabilitation since before the rise of TikTok. However, experts credit the platform for its newfound popularity.

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“It’s not just another run-of-the-mill exercise — it’s something that makes you stand out, which is a big deal on social media platforms like TikTok where unique and eye-catching content is king,” says Mike Julom, ACE, CPT, the founder of


Potential benefits of walking backward

Typically, taking steps back (figuratively speaking) has a negative connotation. Yet, walking backward stands out to professionals for another reason that has nothing to do with its TikTok-friendliness: It could have some benefits, primarily because of the additional muscles you need to engage in order to perform the movement.

Experts share that benefits of walking can include improvements in:

  • Strength
  • Cardiopulmonary fitness and health
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Pain, specifically in the back and knee
  • Mobility
  • Mental well-being
  • Focus and cognition

Fitness improvements

Because walking backward puts more emphasis on the quads than walking forward, Julom says adding it to a fitness routine for strength-building purposes might be beneficial.

“Strengthening [quad] muscles can lead to better overall leg strength and can be especially helpful for people recovering from certain types of knee injuries,” Julom says.

The quads aren’t the only ones getting a workout.

“Your calves and ankle muscles get a better workout, too, as they work harder to stabilize your steps,” Julom says. “Plus, your core muscles, including your abs and lower back, are more actively involved in keeping you balanced and upright.”

Stewart says walking backward also requires energy.

In a small 2021 study of 20 people experiencing chronic strokes, participants walked backward on a treadmill for 30 minutes per day, three times per week, for four weeks.

The research indicated that the potential benefits of walking backward included improved pace and cardiopulmonary fitness. Balance was a third potential perk.

Balance and posture

“Walking backward demands more balance and coordination because you can’t see where you’re going — it challenges your body to maintain stability,” Julom says. “It encourages you to straighten your back to maintain balance, which can help correct posture over time.”

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Julom adds that this effect can benefit people who spend long periods sitting and may be more prone to slouching.

A small 2016 study of 33 people indicated that walking backward on a treadmill for 20 minutes five times weekly for four weeks could improve balance and gait control.

A systemic review and meta-analysis published in 2019 indicated that walking backward could be a tool to improve balance in individuals at high risk for falls.

Pain and injury recovery and prevention

Julom points out that regularly walking backward can boost someone’s range of motion in the knees, hips, and ankles.

“This is because walking backward forces these joints to move in ways they aren’t typically used to, which can help in loosening up and stretching out the surrounding muscles and tendons,” he says.

Additionally, it’s often gentler on the knees, especially if a person is going downhill. Julom says this aspect of walking backward makes it a solid potential option for people with knee issues. The reduced pressure on the lumbar spine might aid in back pain reduction.

A study of almost 70 people from 2019 indicated that participants who partook in a six-week retrowalking program saw a more significant reduction in knee pain (and improved quad strength) than those who walked forward.

A 2020 study of men with nonspecific chronic back pain suggested that retrowalking might be therapeutic.

Mental benefits

Walking backward is also different from walking forward because it requires more mental energy.

“New motion like that makes you think,” Morelli says. “It engages your mind, helps you focus, and there might be a mental benefit.”

Since it’s fun, a person might stick with it, providing an additional way to get steps in, Morelli says, which may also aid with weight loss.

Stewart adds that walking backward requires a person to be “more mindful” about their motions, helping them focus on the task, not stressors. Additionally, she says it can aid in cognitive function, including short-term memory.

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Research published in 2019 also indicated that backward locomotions like backward walking could boost a person’s recall function.

Safety considerations and how to get started

While walking backward is generally safe, Stewart says some individuals should exercise increased caution and speak with a doctor, including people experiencing:

  • vertigo
  • limited mobility
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • balance issues

Other recommendations from the experts Healthline spoke with include:

  • Choose the right space. Morelli suggests an open, empty space, like an uncrowded track. Julom suggests a self-powered treadmill that allows a person to control the belt speed and reduces the risk of bumping into something or someone.
  • Start with small increments. Julom recommends trying 5 to 10 minutes per session three times a week and working up to 15 to 20 minutes at least five times a week.
  • Go slow. Stewart suggests starting with 1.0 to 2.0 as a speed setting on the treadmill with no incline.
  • Maintain posture. Julom reminds people to keep their backs straight and to avoid leaning too far back or forward. “Your head should be up and your gaze slightly forward,” he says.


Walking backward may provide several health benefits. It activates different muscle groups than when a person steps forward — mainly the quadriceps.

Other muscles, such as those in the core, are needed to maintain balance and stability.

According to health experts, this muscle engagement might help improve fitness, strength, balance, and posture.

Additionally, experts share walking backward requires focus, which might help with cognitive function.

Research is limited, and the studies often include smaller sample sizes. Perhaps the best perk? It’s different, which might help people spice up — and stick to — a fitness regimen, which can aid with weight loss.


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