Did you forget your skis? Are you looking for snow?
I occasionally still hear remarks like these when I am out walking with my poles. What these people don’t know is that I am participating in one of the most effective and fastest growing exercises on the planet.
Nordic walking was developed in Europe in the 1930’s as a way of keeping cross-country ski teams fit in the off-season but it has since evolved into a stand-alone exercise that provides an exhilarating cardio exercise and a vigorous muscle workout for your shoulders, arms, core, and legs in one fluid motion. Yet, unlike conventional cardio routines like walking or jogging, Nordic Pole Walking offers a more efficient and low-impact exercise that engages 90% of your muscles.
It really does provide great exercise for just about anyone – from a conditioned athlete to someone like me who only walks from the couch to the refrigerator and back.
It whittles your waist, saves your joints and burns 46% mores calories than standard walking. It sculpts your arms and shoulders, improves posture and decreases stress all while being social, fun and easy to learn.
Plus, it puts significantly less pressure on your hips, knees and ankles than regular walking.
For me, the best thing about Nordic walking is that it can be done almost anywhere at anytime. It’s not limited to any specific season and can be done as long as you have the right equipment and technique.
The right poles. Nordic poles are made from light-weight materials and have rubber tips for use on hard surfaces. They are adjustable to your height and feature grips with special straps. Check out the available styles right here.
Poles should be set at about 65 – 70 % of your body height. When holding them correctly your elbow should be at a 90 degree angle.
Shoes. You want shoes with decent padding, water resistance and flexibility. But most important is FIT. Your shoes should be loose enough to wiggle your toes with ease, but snug enough to keep your foot from sliding around.
While some people claim pole walking is easy to learn because it mimics natural walking, it is still a good idea to find an instructor to teach you the proper technique. Co-ordinating opposite arms and legs, and learning to make your non-dominant arm keep pace takes a surprising amount of effort. You must learn to “stand tall”, keep your “belly button in”, your “arms long and straight” (we never want to see bent elbows) and incorporate lots of shoulder motion.
Pole walking is an adventure, one that is excellent for anyone seeking outdoor activity, improved posture and body awareness, or a low-impact cardiovascular workout and resistance training in one fluid motion.
The biggest potential negative is, as with all outside activity, extremely weather dependent.
Yes, it can be done in the rain as long as you buy quality poles. Cheaper poles are cork-lined and they will warp.
Can you walk in the winter? Again yes. Just don’t stand around beforehand, warm up, match your outfit to the weather, your shoes to the terrain and go at your own pace.
If you enjoy walking with others find a Nordic walking group or start your own. Walking groups provide great company and motivation.
Follow this link to learn more about Nordic pole walking and see the clinical studies.