Nordic Walking – Keep Fit the Fun Way

Initially developed as an off-season ski training activity and used as a dry land training technique for competitive Nordic skiers, Nordic walking has evolved into an all year round activity enjoyed by keep-fit enthusiasts around the world. Simply put, Nordic walking is a form of fitness walking using specially designed poles. Proponents of Nordic walking readily extol the health benefits of this energetic activity, which is an affordable and effective way to get an all-over workout at any time of the year, and is suitable for any age group.

Research studies have been carried out that confirm the plentiful anecdotal evidence of the health benefits of Nordic walking. Using a group of sixteen men and women that were already considered to be physically fit, researcher Hendrickson carried out a study in 1993 where the participants walked on a treadmill at a speed of between 6 and 7.5 km/hour, both with and without poles. The results revealed that the use of poles while walking increased oxygen intake, heart rate and energy expenditure by an average of 20 percent for both men and women. Similar studies by other researchers yielded comparable results.

As is the case with Nordic skiing, Nordic walking engages both the large upper and lower body muscles and is considered to be one of the most effective ways to build cardio-vascular fitness, as well as to burn calories. Other benefits of Nordic walking when compared to regular walking is the strengthening effect on the walker’s upper body (chest, stomach, arms and back), a reduction of stress on the joints, and improvement in neck and chest mobility, while at the same time relieving neck and shoulder pain. It provides the same intensity as running does, but without the potentially damaging high impact of running, and no perceived additional exertion. Moreover, using the poles for walking or hiking provides a greater level of balance and stability, thereby increasing the safety of these activities.

The increase in popularity of Nordic walking has seen a range of poles being developed with different designs and made out of varying materials. It is important to use poles of the correct length when Nordic walking, as failure to do so may result in stress to the knees, hips and back, thereby defeating the object altogether. A number of Nordic walking clubs and organizations have sprung up around the world, and if you would like to explore this form of keeping fit you may want to find out if there is one near you. As with any activity that brings like-minded people together, Nordic walking has a very social aspect to it, which can add an element of fun to this keep-fit activity. For skiers, the bonus of Nordic walking is that you’ll be fit, healthy and ready to hit the slopes with the new snow skiing season.