Dr Michael Mosley recommends weird but powerful technique to sharpen memory

Dr Michael Mosley has revealed a surprising technique that could boost your memory and problem-solving skills.

Thought to have originated in China, the ancient practice involves walking but not in the direction you’d think.

The health guru explained that doing just 100 steps backwards could be as potent as 1,000 steps forward.

Speaking on his BBC Sounds podcast Just One Thing, he said: “When I first heard about this, I was intrigued that something so simple and frankly weird could have such a big effect.

“It can be done on a treadmill but with care and a clear path, you can do it safely in your own home or outside.”

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While walking backwards could benefit your balance and back pain, more surprisingly it also seems to sharpen short-term memory.

What does research say?

Don’t just take the doctor’s word for it, as researchers from the University of Roehampton in the UK also back this.

After asking 100 volunteers to watch a video and then walk either forward, backwards or stand still, they found something bizarre.

The group that walked in reverse consistently remembered more about the video than the others.

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Dr Mosley added: “A similar study found that backward walking increased volunteers’ reaction times.

“The researchers think stepping backwards is a powerful trigger to mobilise your brain’s resources.”

While it’s not completely clear why walking backwards is beneficial for your memory, the activity seems to activate different areas of your brain.

“The prefrontal cortex, a key area for executive function, things like decision making and problem solving is especially active when you’re retro walking,” the podcast host added.

How to start

A guest on the latest Just One Thing Episode, Professor Janet Dufek from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, recommended starting slowly and building up to longer periods.

Professor Dufek said: “So I would suggest starting at probably a minute or two and then maybe every second day add in an additional minute.

“Make sure certainly you’re not in a place where you’re going to run into something. You might want to try walking on a treadmill, because you can use those rails for subtle body support.

“To walk more safely – walk with a partner. You’re facing each other and you hold hands. So you’ll be walking backwards, the other person will be walking forwards, and then you can switch.”

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