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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
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.