Benefits of Nordic Walking

New to Nordic walking?  Here’s what you need to know!

“Nordic walking”, or fitness walking with specially designed poles, is among the fastest growing fitness trends all around the globe. In recent years it has taken much of Europe by storm.  If you are interested in giving this total body exercise version of walking a try there are a few things you need to know to make your entry into the Nordic walking community in an intelligent and informed way.  Here’s what you’ll need to know. 

The History
Although the European Nordic walking community would like to trace the roots of Nordic walking to its introduction in Finland in 1997, others credit an American pole walking pioneer with being the “father of Nordic walking”. David Downer, author of Nordic Walking Step By Step, asserts "as a form of exercise in its own right and completely detached from skiing, hiking and trekking, the activity of Fitness Walking using specially designed poles was pioneered in the U.S. by cross-country skier and certified ski coach Tom Rutlin in 1985". The undisputable fact is that this total body exercise hybrid of walking and cross-country or “Nordic” skiing has its roots deeply in off-season ski training.

How it Works
It’s much easier to understand why so many people are adding poles to their fitness walking when you just get a first-hand feel for how it works.  It only takes a few seconds if you follow these four simple steps:

  1. When sitting in a chair facing a table or desk extend both arms out as if offering them for a friendly handshake.
  2. Make two fists and place them on the desk or table top with your thumbs up.
  3. Sit upright and alternately press one fist, then the other into the desk repeatedly…
  4. Feel how a strong wave of muscle contractions goes through your abdominals as well as muscles in your back, arm, shoulder, chest, and important “core strength” muscles each time you push.

As you Nordic walk you’ll do approximately 2,000 similar contractions per mile of all these muscles against resistance as you apply a force to your poles, rather than a desktop, with each stride. Best of all, with Nordic walking, because the work is shared by so many major muscles, you can actually feel like you're working less while accomplishing much more, and with much less risk of injury. Now you may be beginning to understand why so many walkers are stepping up to Nordic walking!

The Benefits
In the same time you might otherwise just walk – and with little or no additional perceived effort you can simultaneously:
Strengthen abdominal, back, arm, shoulder, chest, leg and all “core” muscles (without separate weight or resistance training!)

  • Burn 20-50%  more calories
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Increase overall stamina and muscle endurance
  • Improve lymph system function and boost your immune system
  • Reduce pain and injury-causing stress on hips, knees and feet
  • Help maintain overall bone density
  • Maintain joint health and range of motion
  • Improve both your posture and balance
  • Enhance both your energy and mood
  • Experience a safe, fun and convenient “good use” total body exercise

If you ask people who are already Nordic walking, they will very likely agree on at least one thing for certain…If you haven’t tried Nordic walking yet, you’ve just got to try it to really begin to understand why it is such a fast growing exercise trend!

Tom Rutlin is an internationally recognized fitness authority and is considered by many to be the "father" of the rapidly growing worldwide Nordic walking movement. He is known for both his pioneering work in fitness walking with specially designed poles and for his concept of "good use" total body exercise. He founded Exerstrider Products, Inc. in 1988 and has dedicated more than a third of his life to helping people discover this fun and motivating way to achieve and maintain their total body fitness and the joy of simultaneously putting their entire body to good use on a regular basis. Tom has kindly provided this article to SportMedBC for use in our RunWalk Community network.


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