Nordic walking - the benefits
Nordic Walking - The Origins
It is said that Nordic walking originated in Finland in the 1930's where cross skiers began using poles to enhance their training during the summer months. In the 1980's clinical studies correlated that this simple method of exercise was efficient in increasing cardiovascular, muscular and aerobic endurance.
Nordic walking is an enhancement of regular walking. Nordic walking helps you to undo bad habits e.g. bad posture and replace with new habits e.g. good posture.
See how effective it can be
Whatever your goal is;
- Becoming more active
- Improving your fitness levels
- Overcoming a medical condition
- Losing weight
- Training for a specific sport or challenge
- Enjoying the great outdoors (not matter what the season)
- Improve posture and balance
- Socialising and making new friends
Exercises your whole body.
Energy consumption (calorie burning) increases when using poles by an average of 20% compared with ordinary walking without poles.
Energy consumption up to 46% higher with Nordic Walking (Cooper Institute research. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports 2002 publication).
You can exercise with your friends, whatever their fitness levels; everyone can walk at the same speed and work harder by using their arms more.
Significantly releases pain and muscle tension in the neck and shoulder region.
Increases upper body strength
Strengthens the spine and reduces back pain by increasing the rotation of the spine in every stride.
Can reduce symptoms of repetitive strain injury in office workers.
Reduces load on the knees and other joints.
Strengthens the bones of the lower and upper body and can combat the effects of osteoporosis.
Improves gait and co-ordination
Improves posture and strengthens abdominal muscles
Some people who rely on a stick to help them walk may find nordic walking very beneficial in helping them walk upright and taking pressure of their joints and spine.
There has been much research on the benefits of walking and being outside with nature and the effects on our mental health.
Nordic walking can be very meditative. It is a misnomer that in order to reap the benefits of meditation we need to sit in a quiet room on our own to meditate. Mindfulness meditation can be done anywhere even in a noisy location. As a yoga teacher Barbara regularly practices meditation whilst nordic walking. Every time you place the pole in the ground you connect with the earth and being outdoors has a real connection with nature. Nordic walking has a very calming effect on the mind. Many people will want to walk and chat which is perfectly fine to do so. Occasionally it can be uplifting to be mindful and to be in the present moment, develop self awareness and notice your surroundings, the way your body moves and how your mind thinks.
As a yoga teacher Barbara teaches her clients how to use the breath much more effectively while walking.
Nordic walking as mentioned above has numerous benefits and can also be used for rehabilitation. Scientists have concluded that nordic walking;
- Is a safe form of rehabilitation for heart patients
- Research has been published on the benefits of Nordic Walking in the rehabilitation of post -operative breast cancer patients.
- Can help increase bone density, and thereby prevent or lessen the progression of osteoporosis.
- Some Physiotherapists use Nordic Walking in the treatment of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
- Provides older adults with the feeling of security and balance when walking due to the poles.
Nordic Walking is a great way to get your whole body moving and to significantly improve the condition of your muscles, heart and lungs. It will boost your energy levels and may help you to ward off medical conditions such as:
Heart Disease and Strokes
- High Blood pressure
- Diabetes (type 2)
- Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis
- Stress, anxiety, depression
- Hip, knee and joint problems
Nordic walking can also help with rehabilitation for those that have hip and knee problems.
For athletes, Nordic Walking makes an ideal cross training exercise.
See how it feels
To see how it feels to use the poles try this experiment.
It takes only a few seconds to experience how Nordic walking involves important core and upper body muscles while nordic walking.
Try this exercise to see how it feels.
- Sit in a dining or office chair near a table or desk, extend both of you arms out as if shaking someones hand.
- Make fists with both of your hands and place them on the table or desk.
- Sit with your spine upright and alternately press firmly down on the table/desk one fist and then the other.
- Feel what is happening in your upper body and abdominal muscles e.g. the contraction and engagement of your core abdominal muscles and also the muscles you are using in your arms, shoulders and chest.
Using the poles not only employs your upper body muscles and abdominals but maximises your body's major muscles making nordic walking a complete body workout. The poles distribute your weight which in turn improves posture. There is less risk of injury as the poles take the pressure away from the joints e.g. hips, knees, ankles. You will find walking with the poles propels you forward increasing the speed at which you usually walk and naturally enhances cardiovascular fitness.
Due to the cross lateral movement (arm matching opposite leg) co-ordination is improved and studies have shown that this style of walking stimulates brain activity and improves the learning process so if you have a problem to resolve the answer may come to you whilst nordic walking.
What to wear?
As we walk in all weathers it is advisable to equip yourself just as you would with any outdoor activity. The most important piece of clothing is the right shoes. Recommended are Trainers or any comfortable walking shoe will suffice. Please do not wear open toe sandals for safety reasons (the poles have spikes at the end). Lots of layers are good in the cold weather and lightweight waterproof clothing.
Remember your hands won't be free so some people like to carry a small backpack for their belongings. Don't forget suncream, sunglasses and a hat during the hot weather. And most importantly don't forget water, it is vital that you stay hydrated. Bring along money, as some locations require payment for car parking and some people like to go for refreshments following a walk.
Our feet are very important, therefore it is vital that when walking we learn to walk and use our feet correctly. If incorrect, it will have an effect on the rest of our body.
Our feet are often neglected and unless you are like me e.g. dislike wearing shoes and love walking barefoot your feet probably spend a great deal of time in shoes, socks, slippers etc. When was the last time you massaged your feet? or had someone else massage them for you?
The diagram below demonstrates the pressure (meridians) points in our feet. Self help can be very useful so give your feet a little TLC now and again - they will appreciate it and you will also be massaging your internal organs. The Organs of your body have their sensory touches at the bottom of your foot, if you massage these points you will find relief from aches and pains as you can see the heart is on the left foot.