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:
In addition to adding intensity and calorie-burn to your workout, Nordic walking also boasts the following benefits:
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:
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!