Originating from Finland, where their cross-country world class skiers train and keep fit in the summer months by long distance walking with ski poles, Nordic walking has become recognized as one of the best exercise workouts for people of all ages.
What are the Benefits?
The poles add an upper body work out to the benefits of walking while at the same time giving the feeling that walking is easier. The heart rate is increased by up to 13% resulting in a faster improvement in fitness.
Energy consumption increases by up to 45% compared to ordinary walking, and can lift the calorie burn from around 260 per hour to up to 400 per hour, helping with any weight loss aspirations.
Using the poles helps to widen the swing of the arms and rotate the upper body, releasing tension in the neck and shoulders and increasing the flexibility of the spine.
With the right technique up to 90% of the bodies muscles can be involved with the pectorals, the abdominals, the back, shoulder and forearm muscles gaining the most benefit.
By taking some of the weight off the knee and ankle joints, the poles will make walking for sufferers from discomfort in these joints easier and more enjoyable.
Who is walking?
The principal age group to have taken up Nordic walking are in their fifties but the other age groups are catching up fast, with reports that those in their eighties are also enjoying the benefits of a healthy outdoor and inexpensive exercise option.
What Equipment is needed?
. The only special equipment needed is a pair of poles. These are made from lightweight durable materials such as carbon, aluminum and fiberglass and should be virtually unbreakable. The handles are of rubber to provide a good grip and the ends are metal or rubber tipped. The poles are attached to the wrist by specially designed straps that enable the hands to open and close around the handles without the risk of dropping the pole and at the same time allow for wide swings of the arm.
Nordic walking poles are specially made for the purpose, trekking poles or adapted ski poles will not provide the benefits and, unlike Nordic poles, they are usually interchangeable between the left and right hands. Unlike the longer cross country skiing poles the length of the ideal Nordic pole should be 70% of the height of the user.
Using poles of the wrong length can add stress to the back and lessen the benefits of the exercise.
Nordic walking is not difficult to adjust to but if you can find anybody who has experience they may be able to pass on a few helpful tips.