Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking

Article kindly provided by HFE is a leading provider
of personal training courses and fitness qualifications.

Nordic Walking derives from cross country skiing and was first developed by the Finnish Olympic cross country ski team in the 1930s, who were looking for ways to maintain their high fitness levels during the summer months when snow was scarce. For many years it remained the preserve of these elite athletes until Leena Jaaskelainen, a P.E. teacher spotted its potential for a wider audience in the 1960s and introduced the sport to Finnish schools and universities. It wasn’t until the new millennium that Nordic Walking broke beyond its original national boundaries, with the formation, in 2000, of the International Nordic Walking Association, which promotes the sport worldwide.


Who is it for?

If you can walk, you can Nordic Walk, making this a highly accessibly exercise that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of gender, age or fitness level. The correct use of specially designed poles switches on your large upper body muscles, muscles which we often overlook, and harnesses the power of your upper body to propel you forward, thus transforming a walk into a workout. Poles effectively turn you into a four legged animal, spreading your weight across all four limbs and, therefore, significantly reducing the impact of each step on your knee and hip joints. The intensity of the exercise can be varied, depending on how much pressure you apply to the pole, the speed at which you walk and the gradient of the terrain covered.


At times modern life seems to conspire against correct postural positioning. Posture forms one of the key foundations of the Nordic Walking technique and many report fewer aches and pains, resulting from an increased awareness of correct postural alignment and improved gait. The action of pushing the poles into the ground forces the neck and shoulder muscles to continually contract and release, thus improving mobility in that area and reducing tension.

The additional activity of the arms and upper body muscles in Nordic Walking, as opposed to conventional walking without poles, increases both your oxygen uptake and energy expenditure. The increased muscle activity stimulates your metabolism and burns more calories, making this an ideal form of exercise for weight loss, weight maintenance, combating obesity and preventing type-2 diabetes. The technique of extending the arms and rotating the shoulders mean that you work your triceps, obliques and laterals, muscles which are little used in everyday life.

Nordic Walking is a full body workout, which uses about 90% of the skeletal muscles. By engaging more muscles, regular Nordic Walking makes your heart stronger than ordinary walking, and therefore has a bigger impact on your heart rate than a casual stroll. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. The contraction and relaxation of the hand as it grips and releases the pole handle assists blood circulation, which works the heart and lowers blood pressure in the long term.

How do I learn?

The best way to learn the internationally recognised 10 step technique is by joining a class. British Nordic Walking instructors provide poles, so all you need is comfortable clothing and a good pair of shoes. People join Nordic Walking classes for many different reasons, but they all have one overriding factor in common: they enjoy being part of a group activity.


Nordic Walking delivers a full body workout in a manner that is sociable, outdoors and fun and can increase your cardio-vascular output; improve your posture; reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and lower your blood pressure, whilst toning the upper arms and waist; reducing head and shoulder tension; reducing the impact on knee and hip joints as well as increasing the number of calories burned, thus aiding weight loss.



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