Nordic walking is a method of walking that uses your entire body, making it a great fitness activity. Thanks to the use of poles, similar to ski poles, your arms and upper body get as much of a workout as the lower half. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, Nordic walking can be done anywhere, anytime. But we find it’s most enjoyable as part of a group, making it a social form of exercise for all ages.
Nordic walking started in Finland in the 1930s, when the country’s cross-country skiers were looking for a way to keep their fitness levels up in summer. But as it’s now one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the UK, we thought it was time we blogged about it. So what is Nordic walking? Why is it so popular? And how can you find out how to use Nordic walking poles?
Nordic Walking Benefits
We often hear the question, ‘Is Nordic walking good for you?’
Well, in answer we give you these benefits of Nordic walking exercise:
• You can burn up to 46% more calories when compared to walking without poles. In fact you can burn around 400 calories an hour – almost as many as you would use at a slow jogging pace.
• Nordic walking works the whole of the body, strengthening your back, abdominal muscles and arms. And it’s even good for toning your legs and bottom.
• With the right technique, Nordic walking reduces the impact on your joints, especially your knees. It also improves posture and releases tension in the neck and shoulders.
• Many people enjoy Nordic walking for total fitness, but it can also benefit those returning to exercise after a break, or who are in rehabilitation from an injury.
People rave about Nordic walking for health and wellbeing. There are many conditions that Nordic walking can help with by providing an enjoyable way to exercise at your own pace without placing too much strain on your body.
Nordic Walking Equipment: What Do You Need?
You don’t need much in the way of Nordic walking equipment. Just dress as you would for a brisk walk. Choose plenty of warm fleece layers, depending on the weather, and make sure you have comfortable walking shoes.
The only piece of equipment you will likely need to purchase is a pair of Nordic walking poles. These can be bought relatively inexpensively, and will last for years.
Nordic Walking Shoes
You won’t need specific Nordic walking shoes, but you should make sure you wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes that are lightweight and waterproof.
Nordic Walking Poles
You may have some old ski poles in the cupboard, but don’t be tempted to use them. To get the best results, your poles should be designed specifically for Nordic walking. Poles come in pairs, a left-hand and a right-hand one. They will have a strap to slide your hand through as you hold the grip, and some will have the extra security of a Velcro strap.
Your poles will also come with removable rubber tips. These are useful if you are walking on a paved surface. Remove these rubber tips if you are planning a route on a softer surface like grass or sand, to make sure the poles get a better grip.
If you’re wondering how to choose Nordic walking sticks your main consideration should be length. Most shops or websites will be able to offer height charts so you can work out what length pole you need. If you fall between two lengths opt for the shorter one so you can get a good swing on the poles and they wont interfere with your gait.
What is Nordic Walking Technique? How To Get Started
You probably think you already know how to walk – you’ve been doing it for the majority of your life, right? But Nordic walking is different. When people learn how to Nordic walk, they are often surprised by just how tricky they find it initially. In fact the hardest bit is learning to coordinate your arms and legs when you’re using Nordic walking sticks. But learn how to use Nordic walking sticks properly and you’ll be well away:
Step 1: Carrying Your Nordic Walking Poles
Just carry the poles as you walk normally. Let your arms swing by your sides, moving your left arm with your right foot and vice versa. Try not to think about it too much or you’ll confuse yourself. Do this until it feels completely natural.
Step 2: Angling & Planting Your Poles
First simply drag the Nordic walking poles behind you as you walk. Notice the angle that the poles hang in as they go behind you. They should be about 45 degrees backwards. Next, keeping this angle, practise planting the poles in the ground in front of you as you walk. Keep your elbows close to your body and your arms fairly straight. Don’t grip the poles too hard – your hands should simply guide them.
Step 3: Pushing Off With Your Poles
Now practise pushing off a little as you swing through the step. As you bring your arm forward pretend you are reaching for something. Pushing off correctly will give you momentum so that, with practise, you can get up a good Nordic walking speed.
Step 4: Perfecting Your Nordic Walking Technique
Once you have the basic Nordic walking technique mastered you can begin to up the ante with it. Get maximum value from your workout by rolling through from the heel to the toe of your shoes, and by lengthening your stride.
It can be difficult when you first learn how to use Nordic poles. Many beginners find it easier to attend a class to learn the basic Nordic walking technique.
How to Get Involved: Nordic Walking Groups
If you feel like you would benefit from some face-to-face Nordic walking instructions, you can find a Nordic walking trainer near you on the British Nordic Walking site.
Getting involved with a Nordic walking group in your local area can be a great way to get outdoors, do some exercise and make friends in the process.
If you love walking, why not visit our walking hub, for more tips and tricks to get the most out of your hobby?