Perhaps you’ve seen folks striding purposefully with a set of trekking poles in your favorite park or on your street. They’re sort of like ski poles, except there’s no snow, and no skis.
The practice is called Nordic walking because it started out in Finland as a way for cross country skiers to train during the summer months.
Honestly, I used to view Nordic walking as just one of dozens of fitness fads until I read the research and advice of fitness experts. The benefits are exciting…
It turns out that this type of exercise not only burns more calories than traditional walking, but you don’t feel like you’re working any harder than regular walking! Plus, studies show it helps your health in a variety of ways.
Using special telescoping poles, Nordic walking adds a rhythmic motion of swinging and pushing off that works the body more strenuously. In fact, according to the American Nordic Walking Association,1 you engage about 90 percent of the muscles in your body while Nordic walking.
Advocates of Nordic walking say that because you are also using your upper body, you can burn almost as many calories as jogging. And the news gets even better because unlike jogging, Nordic walking has a low impact on joints, which is appealing if you’re starting to feel your age.
Kathy Smith, noted fitness expert and author of Moving Through Menopause, is a big fan of Nordic walking and describes it as the total-body form of walking.
“When you use poles to walk, you’re not only powering your legs; you’re also working your chest, back and arm muscles to propel you, giving your entire body a workout,” Smith said in an AARP interview.2
More Exercise Benefits With the Same Exertion
The fitness benefits seem endless because, according to studies,3 Nordic walkers actually exert more energy without feeling it.
Basically, that means you can walk for your usual distance and time period at your preferred speed while getting a better workout. Additionally, this type of walking can help boost your light-intensity workout to moderate intensity (without pushing yourself harder!), which builds cardiovascular fitness and all the health benefits that go with it.
I probably don’t have to tell you that our sedentary lifestyle contributes to a host of chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. Regular readers of this newsletter know that I’m a big fan of brisk walking as an effective measure to counteract these risks, and others.
Nordic walking isn’t the only way to reduce these risks, but it does have some interesting health perks. In a scientific review,4 researchers summarized, analyzed and interpreted the health benefits of Nordic walking compared to brisk walking and jogging.
27 Studies Prove It
The reviewers looked at the findings of 16 randomized controlled trials (involving a total of 1,062 patients) and 11 observational studies (831 patients).
According to the analysis, “… in regard to short- and long-term effects on heart rate, oxygen consumption, quality of life, and other measures, Nordic walking is superior to walking without poles and in some endpoints to jogging.”
It also reduces knee and joint stress, which is great for those with orthopedic issues. Nordic walking is a good fit for those who suffer from balance issues, such as Parkinson’s, or are recovering from a stroke.
According to research5 compiled by the International Nordic Walking Association, people who suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia and pulmonary disease can also experience benefits from this type of exercise.
Nordic Walking Basics
One of my talented researchers has given Nordic walking a try and gave me a few tips. First of all, get your hands on the correct equipment – traditional ski poles aren’t the same thing. Adjustable Nordic walking poles range from $50 to $200 a pair.
Next, consider taking a Nordic walking class or at least look for an instructional video on YouTube. I know you’re saying “I know how to walk,” but there’s more to this than you think. It’s important to learn the correct technique. Even if you falter a bit at the beginning, you’ll still be adding a boost to your traditional walking routine.
Based on the evidence I’ve seen, I can give this type of exercise a warm endorsement.