Fitness Articles

Burn 20% More Calories with This Walking Technique

An Introduction to Nordic Walking

1.4KSHARES
Eventually, most people who walk for fitness will reach the point when walking alone no longer challenges them or helps them see results. If that sounds like you, then Nordic walking may be just what you need. First used as a summer training method by cross-country skiers, Nordic walking has become a stand-alone fitness regime, thanks to fitness professionals and the sports equipment manufacturer Exel Oyj of Finland.

Nordic walking, which uses walking poles to increase effort, is a low-impact, full-body workout that is gentle on the joints. And although you'll work harder and burn more calories than walking alone, the perceived exertion is about the same. What this means is that you burn more calories while working more muscle groups. If you try Nordic walking, you’ll enjoy a greater aerobic challenge than walking alone, but won't feel as though you're working much harder.

A small study conducted by the Dallas-based Cooper Institute and funded by Exel found that:
  • Nordic walking burns about 20% more calories per hour than walking alone.
  • Nordic walking elevates heart rate between 4.0% and 8.2% higher than walking alone.
  • Although Nordic walkers burned more calories and used more muscle groups, they did not feel that walking with Nordic poles was more strenuous than walking without poles.
Benefits of Nordic Walking
In addition to adding intensity and calorie-burn to your workout, Nordic walking also boasts the following benefits:
  • A similar exercise intensity to running, but without the high impact and with a lower level of perceived exertion
  • Strengthens the upper body, including the including the deltoids (shoulders), lats (back), pectorals (chest), triceps (arms) and abdominals
  • Reduces joint stress
  • Relieves neck and shoulder pain
  • Increases flexibility in the neck and chest
  • Improves mood and helps relieve depression
Nordic walking is great for anyone who wants to add some variety to their fitness routine—runners who want to round out their fitness programs with low-impact, but high intensity workouts; people who want to lose weight by burning more calories in less time; and even older exercisers who can use Nordic walking poles to increase their balance and stability during exercise.

Basic Nordic Walking Technique
While Nordic walking is an effective workout, it’s not as simple as picking up a pair of walking sticks and heading out—you'll need to learn a different movement altogether. Here are some technique guidelines:
  1. Loop the pole straps over your hands, drop your hands back and start walking without thinking about the poles yet. Concentrate on relaxed walking and keep your shoulders low and loose. Allow your arms to swing freely back and forth.
     
  2. Walk with the poles held low and let them swing along with the arms without trying to use them. Lengthen your stride so and begin with the heel first, then roll onto the sole of the foot and finish with a thrust from the ball of the foot.
     
  3. Now concentrate on using the poles. Once you have gotten into a rhythm, try to use the arms more and more. The goal is to get the pole thrust to travel behind the line of the pelvis.
     
  4. Keep the Nordic poles close to the body. Your pelvis should be lifted high and your overall posture taut and slightly forward-leaning. Opposite arms and legs swing alternately forwards and back.
     
  5. For a visual of Nordic walking technique, check out the short YouTube video, Nordic Walking: An Introduction.
Buying Nordic Poles
You can buy Nordic poles online or in retail sporting goods stores at prices starting around $100 a pair. Exel, one of the original creators of Nordic walking, remains the top source for carbon composite poles. The types of Nordic poles are virtually endless, with options related to weight (light or heavy), materials (aluminum or carbon fiber), length (some are adjustable or fixed, while others are telescoping for easier packing), wrist straps and their release mechanisms, grips (many are ergonomically designed to reduce hand and wrist fatigue), tips (rubber for paved walkways and spikes for trails), and more.

To find the right pole length for you, first convert your height to centimeters (multiply height in inches by 2.54). Next, multiply your height (in centimeters) by 0.68 (the length of your poles should be about 68% of your total height). Pole lengths are graded in 5-centimeter intervals, so round your calculated length to the nearest 5 centimeters. As an example, the ideal pole length for a person who is 6 feet tall (182 cm) would be 123 cm. (182 x 0.68). The nearest 5-centimeter pole length available is either 120 cm or 125 cm. When choosing the right pole length, remember that your elbow should bend approximately 90 degrees when you are holding the grip with the pole tip on the ground.

While the technique needed for Nordic walking may take a little while to get the hang of, the overall benefits of the sport far outweigh the learning curve. Whether you want to burn more calories with less exertion or you just want to try something new, Nordic walking is an effective way to get in shape—and enjoy the outdoors!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
1.4KSHARES

Member Comments

About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.