Are you looking for an engaging new way to exercise — one that you can do with people from both older and younger generations?
Nordic walking — essentially, walking with long poles (a lot like cross-country ski poles) — might be the answer. One of its many benefits is that it burns more calories than ordinary walking of the same intensity.
Even though you’re getting a more thorough workout, most people don’t feel like they are working any harder, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
Cross-country training led to the new workout method
Nordic walking got its start as a summer training method for cross-country skiers. In recent years, its popularity has increased, especially among older adults.
Walking poles engage the upper body and can help with stability, improve posture and possibly lessen the impact on joints and muscles.
According to the International Nordic Walking Federation (INWA), Nordic Walking is a non-competitive physical activity that is suitable for all, irrespective of age, gender or physical condition.
They say that by using biomechanically correct movements and gait, together with the proper body alignment and posture, the workout’s natural and fluid movements that engage the muscles of the upper and lower body as well as the core.
The rhythmic, dynamic movements result in a thorough, symmetrical training, plus offers aerobic conditioning, thanks to the activation of both large and small muscle groups.
Practitioners of Nordic walking typically experience slightly higher heart rates than occur with ordinary walking. And, the body consumes more oxygen.
In one study, Nordic walking burned about 20 percent more calories over one mile compared to normal walking on the same course. The extra calorie burn may occur because Nordic walking works the muscles of the arms, shoulders, chest, back and torso more than ordinary walking.
Tips for Nordic walking strides
The arm and leg movements in Nordic walking are much the same as in ordinary walking.
To begin, it’s helpful to take a few strides without touching the pole tips to the ground. Walkers progress to taking strides while lightly dragging the pole tips. The next step is to plant the pole tip, gradually increasing the force from gentle to more powerful pole pushes.
Poles designed for Nordic walking are available at many sporting goods stores and on the internet. Poles are available in adjustable lengths. The forearm should generally be parallel to the ground when gripping a Nordic pole.
As with any new activity, the Mayo Clinic’s recommendation is to start at an easy level and gradually increase effort.