In recent years, Nordic walking has become a popular form of physical activity, inspiring people of all ages to get active and outside. The unique poles used in this activity are similar in design to those used for cross country skiing, however they offer assisstive qualities, including relieving stress on the ankles, knees and lower back, alleviating pressure on hips and joints and preventing falls, all while helping walkers burn up to 50% more calories than when walking alone.
The poles are reasonably priced, adjustable and easy to operate, with external fasteners that lock into place for stability while in use, or that can be effortlessly disassembled for compact transportation. However, ease of use is not the reason Nordic walking groups are popping up all over North America; research shows that this fun physical activity has many health benefits.
The health benefits of Nordic walking have long been documented, and include:
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Nordic walking is so effective as a physical activity because it uses all the body’s major muscle groups at once, including the abdominal and pelvic muscles, back, biceps, buttocks, pectorals, thighs and triceps. The Huffington Post states that walking with poles also protects joints, facilitates a more upright posture and puts less pressure on the spine.
Nordic walking also builds muscular endurance and is considered both an aerobic and anaerobic workout. An excerpt published by Human Kinetics, explains that aerobic exercise “is the backbone of your training program.” Aerobics are more of a ‘slow burn’ exercise which use “readily available oxygen, glycogen and fat stores” to keep the body moving and maintain a moderate heart rate. Anaerobic exercise – known as “advanced cardio training” – on the other hand is a ‘quick burn’ activity which uses muscles and food as fuel, instead of using fat stores. As Nordic walking works many muscle groups at the same time, it “takes your heart rate to a new level of intensity” depending on the strength and speed at which you move.
Nordic walking poles are great tools for improving balance because they strengthen the lower and upper body simultaneously and act as stabilizers for people who may be unsteady. Walking with poles allows you to take longer strides by planting the pole and propelling the body forward.
A study by the University of Toulouse, found that fitness walkers experienced a significantly lower BMI over the course of 12 months of physical activity. Better yet, Nordic walkers use more energy than walking without poles and “experienced walkers who hit the road two or three times a week” can burn between 1200-1500 calories.
Communities across North America have Nordic walking groups – they’re popping up all over as the sport increases in popularity. Retirement communities especially have embraced this sport and the cardiovascular and social benefits it offers. Exercising in a group atmosphere is encouraging and inspiring, while improving each person’s individual fitness level and promoting social interaction.
People who exercise in a group steadily increase the time in which they spend being active. In fact, the Huffington Post reports that “after 12 months of practice, walkers progress from an average of two to three hours to three to four and a half hours of physical activity per week.”
Nordic walking poles have become a must-have piece of exercise equipment to add to your collection. By combining physical activity and social interaction, Nordic walking is a great exercise for people of all ages to embrace, and is a great multi-generational activity. What better way for young adults, parents and grandparents to spend time together?
Have you tried Nordic walking? We’d love to hear your experiences with this type of fitness equipment in the comments below.