Nordic walking derived its name from its original introduction in Finland by cross-country skiers who as some of the fittest athletes around, decided to incorporate it into their summer training program.
Its popularity lies in the fact that it is combining the benefits of walking with the more complete body fitness regime associated with cross-country ski-ing. This means that you can actually burn off up to around an extra 40% more calories without having to walk any faster and, perhaps more importantly for those who have a ‘love/hate’ relationship with exercise, without any noticeable additional physical exertion being required. This is because the poles that you use can carry the burden of some of your weight but, simultaneously, you are using more of your upper body muscles in applying force to the poles with each stride. Not only does this provide you with a much more complete workout, the fact that you are able to redistribute some of your weight means that there is less stress on areas which are prone to injury such as your back, hips, knees and shins.
Overall, it gives the Nordic walker increased strength and stamina in the arms, makes climbing hills easier, improves balance and stability and burns up more calories over conventional walking.
Another beauty is that as your speed is completely determined by your upper body effort, you can actually conduct your workout in the company of others, for example friends who you may simply wish to accompany on, what for them, is a leisurely walk, you can go along at their pace, but as you will be using your poles and your upper body, you will still reap the benefits of a more comprehensive workout as your effort is spread across your whole body.
The main difference between Nordic walking poles and ordinary trekking poles are the straps. Nordic poles have straps which envelop the hand which allows you to apply force without actually gripping the poles. They are designed to withstand the repetitive force which is applied, don’t tend to collapse and deal with vibration far better. They are also lighter than conventional trekking poles.
Nordic walking can be performed on all types of surfaces and in all kinds of terrain as the poles come with different tips such as durable metal ones for ice, snow, trail or beach and rubber tips if you are walking on pavement as you can do this form of exercise in your own neighbourhood – you don’t need to be out in the wilds to enjoy its benefits. The poles are light to carry and are made from carbon fibre or aluminium or from composites of both.
Unlike conventional walking, you will give additional muscles a good workout. These include your chest, biceps, triceps, abdominals and shoulder muscles. Because it’s a more total workout, your walking will actually feel more comfortable and less tiring as you are not forcing the same muscles to continuously perform all of the work.
It also acts as a great reliever of stress to those who tend to have sedentary jobs or are sat behind the wheel of a car or lorry all day because the poles strengthen the large muscles of the back which pull down the shoulder blades which means that you don’t suffer with the muscular pain and tension associated with being hunched up behind the wheel or sat hunched over a PC screen.
It also increases spine rotation, strengthens the spinal discs, thus reducing the risk of debilitating back pain so it can be used as a ‘preventative’ form of exercise against ‘wear and tear’ damage as well as a good workout.