If you're interested in a form of exercise that won't take its toll on your joints, and works well regardless of your current fitness level, you can't go far wrong with Nordic walking. You may not have heard of Nordic walking, but it is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to its suitability for all ages and the fact that it actually exercises your whole body, unlike ordinary walking for example.
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic walking originated among the community of cross-country skiers, who weren't getting the full body workout they needed once the snow had disappeared. They use walking poles that have been designed specifically to work the upper body by propelling you forward as you walk. This means you use both your bottom half and your top half as you walk, effectively and comfortably. The idea behind the poles, when used properly, is that they take the weight off your knees and lower body joints which has the advantage of making you feel lighter on your feet and capable of walking further.
Make sure you use specific Nordic walking poles however, as they differ to normal trekking poles. You will use the strap differently, and alter the angle at which you plant your pole in the ground as you walk. If you attend a Nordic walking class, it is quite likely that the instructor will have poles you can borrow for the first few sessions. Nordic walking poles are competitively priced, at around 30 Euros per set.
Who Can Enjoy Nordic Walking?
The beauty of Nordic walking is that it is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you join a class, you'll find that some people who have health issues will just want to enjoy a gentle walk, while others will want to seriously improve their fitness, lose weight and tone the whole body so they'll opt for a full workout walk.
What Technique Do You Need to Learn?
Obviously, if you opt to attend a class, or Nordic Walking group, you'll soon be taught the basics. You walk in the ordinary way, but swing your arms from your shoulders, keeping your elbows straight, kind of like a soldier marching.
You'll also learn about the correct way to hold your poles. The glove-straps have been ergonomically designed to enable you to relax your hand as you push back into the glove strap and take your stride. This action helps to strengthen the wrist muscles.
The Health Benefits of Nordic Walking
There are a number of health benefits attached to Nordic walking, including that it will lower your risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. Nordic walking is an effective exercise to use as part of a programme of weight loss, and for those who suffer with joint problems, or who are quite heavy, Nordic walking is also suitable to help with those. In fact, Nordic walking is suitable for everyone regardless of age or mobility. It allows you to move more easily, meaning you can exercise at a higher intensity than when you are walking naturally, and this will help to improve your participation in other physical activities in the long term too.
As Nordic walking actively utilises both the upper and the lower body, you are lengthening your spine and carrying your body weight more efficiently. This will help to correct your posture and improve your core stability, stabilising your back. There is an element of upper body rotation used in effective Nordic walking technique, and this helps to keep the spine in good condition and reduce the tension and pain in the neck, shoulder and back, caused by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
Your balance and co-ordination will be improved when you use two poles, and this means that Nordic walking is useful for you if you're elderly and you are experiencing some balance and co-ordination issues. You will effectively increase your range of movement.
Where Do You Do Nordic Walking?
While you can participate in Nordic walking anywhere – not just in the countryside – it is recommended that you start off with a qualified instructor so that you can learn the basic techniques. You'll usually be offered a taster session meaning you can try it out and see if you like it first. Once you have learned the techniques, then you can go for regular walks with local groups.
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