Picture this – a middle-aged man or woman, alone on a path through a snowy forest, wrapped up in an unusual form of exercise. They swing their arms and legs with exaggerated movements as they trudge along and breathe heavily – and are enjoying every minute of it. They support themselves with a walking stick, which seems to play an integral role in the movement.
That is Nordic walking, a new form of exercise that is gaining popularity fast. Although not much research has been done to assess the benefits of Nordic walking, proponents of this exercise swear by its effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why you should take up Nordic walking.
Benefits Of Nordic Pole Walking
Nordic walking focuses on two important factors: balance and strength. As a result, there are many health benefits associated with it, such as:
Good For Your Heart
Nordic walking involves the same benefits as any other form of aerobic exercise – getting your heart rate up – but it stimulates more muscle fibers along the way to strengthen your body all over.
Experts believe that this could be one of the lowest impact ways to keep your ticker healthy. In addition to raising your heart rate, experts think that this activity may also help prevent hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes (5). This is because it helps boost the body’s production of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Nordic walking can help you achieve optimal levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), too, by stimulating enzymes responsible for breaking down this fatty substance in the bloodstream and flushing it out.
Good For Your Joints
Chances are you’ve been told to steer clear of high-impact exercises if you have arthritis or other conditions that affect your joints. Nordic walking is a low-impact activity that is actually good for you. That’s because it takes lots of pressure off your joints by engaging your large muscles, including the gluteus and quadriceps, which support the use of your lower limbs. Furthermore, individuals who have mobility issues can also benefit from this form of aerobic activity.
Nordic walking can be easier on some people because it places less stress on your muscles, bones, and joints (6). That’s because you aren’t planting your feet into the ground with each stride like you do in walking or running. You’re swinging your legs and walking on a narrower surface, which means there’s less impact with each step.
As a result of this gentler action, Nordic walking strengthens the muscles in your legs without as much strain as other forms of exercise. That’s why many therapists recommend it as an alternative for those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, arthritis, or other joint conditions.
Good For Your Brain
Many people think that you can’t exercise your brain – but this isn’t the case. In fact, research has shown that regular aerobic activities such as Nordic walking increase blood flow in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning abilities (4). The more efficient these regions are, the better your brain function will be which means sharper thinking and better memory.
Strengthens More Muscles Than Traditional Walking
Nordic walking involves a different type of motion than a traditional workout – one that targets more of your lower body muscles, rather than the top-heavy muscles from running or other types of aerobic activities.
And because you need to keep your head up while performing this activity, it also works out your neck, shoulders, and back as well – strengthening your entire body in a single workout session (7)! This form of exercise is very popular with athletes who want to strengthen their legs for skiing or snowboarding, too.
If you have problems maintaining balance on skis during the winter months, don’t think that Nordic walking won’t help – it actually may be just what you need to get your balance back in working order. This is because it involves using a type of motion that requires you to maintain an erect posture while putting pressure on the ends of your feet, which will improve your overall balancing skills (5).
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Enhances Your Coordination And Balance
This form of exercise forces you to use all of your muscles at the same time, which is great for improving your lower body endurance, coordination, and balance (10). It will also help you process multiple signals or ‘cues’ simultaneously, helping you respond with greater speed and accuracy in almost any activity.
Improves Your Mood
One of the benefits of nordic walking is that it impacts your brain positively. It can actually increase levels of endorphins that make you feel good without any negative side effects.
Burns More Calories
Nordic walking can burn more calories than brisk walking (5). In fact, it can be up to twice as effective because you’re using all your major muscle groups – not just the ones in your legs. You’re using your arms and legs to activate larger muscle groups which means an increased rate of calorie burning.
Provides Stress Relief
Contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn’t always stress out our bodies – but rather can actually provide relief from everyday stresses through increased endorphin release. When we feel good, our brain releases these chemicals in response to the physical changes caused by exercise (11). So when you feel your spirits are down or you are feeling stressed out after a difficult day at work, spend 30 minutes walking with Nordic poles and watch how your mood can be changed in no time flat!
Nordic Walking Can Be Social Too
The best part of Nordic walking is that it can be enjoyed with your friends or family members, so you’ll always have someone to share the experience with. You can also join a club or take classes if you want some extra support.
Great For Moms-To-Be
Regular exercise can help keep pregnancy symptoms at bay by keeping blood pressure levels in check, helping to reduce swelling and other discomforts, and reducing stress (3). These are some Nordic walking health benefits for pregnant women.
This activity is also great because it helps pregnant women stay active during their pregnancies while still protecting their joints. It’s even possible to continue Nordic walking after giving birth until you feel up for more difficult forms of exercise again, especially if your routine includes strengthening your core.
Keeps You Young
As you age, your joints and muscles lose their strength – but Nordic walking is a great way to combat the loss of a youthful appearance and a more toned body. It can also help fight back against osteoporosis by stimulating the production of new bone tissue (12).
In addition, this activity can prevent physical limitations that develop as you get older so you can continue doing activities such as gardening or hiking with your friends and family members. In fact, it’s been shown that older people who do lower-body exercises like Nordic walking might find themselves less likely to become disabled after several years compared with those who don’t exercise regularly.
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How To Get Started With Nordic Walking
There are several things you can do to get into this exercise routine:
Get The Right Gear
Your choice of gear can make or break your Nordic walking routine. First, you’ll need good shoes with special soles to give your feet plenty of support. Then, get yourself some poles since using them will help improve your cardio workout while toning your upper body as well. The best poles will have a special grip that you can easily adjust to your height. Make sure the poles will work for your height and weight.
Warm Up Well
To avoid injury, warm-up before every session by doing a few minutes of light exercises such as marching in place or jogging gently (2). This is great for loosening up those muscles and preparing you for the more intense activity ahead.
Dynamic stretching will also help loosen up your joints and prepare you for a more intense workout (1).
Master The Nordic Walking Technique
There are a few things you should know about Nordic walking technique. First,always start by walking naturally. Relax your shoulders and arms, and swing from your shoulders.
Hold the pole handles but not too tightly. The straps are meant to help you relax your grip. While swinging your arms forward, keep the poles angled back so they push you forward.
Lean slightly forward. Ensure each step lands on the heel and rolls through the foot to push off on your toes. Finally, keep your arms straight each time you push back on the poles. This helps to work your stomach and back even more. After each strike, open your hand and release the pole, but keep it close to your body. This way, you’ll work 90% of the muscles in your body.
Start Slow And Build Distance Slowly
Nordic walking is a physical activity that can provide great results if done properly – but it’s important not to try too much too soon. This means keeping your walks at a comfortable pace until you’re used to the exercise and your body is able to handle more of a workout.
Don’t go from not walking to a two hour workout. Instead, build distance slowly while focusing on the proper technique for maximum results.
Taking in plenty of water is key to enjoying the many benefits that Nordic walking can provide. Make sure you have a bottle of water with you at all times and drink regularly even if you don’t feel thirsty (8). This will help your body stay hydrated during exercise which is essential. Also, consider making electrolyte-rich drinks a part of your regular routine. These kinds of drinks will help replenish minerals lost during exercise which can improve your workout and reduce soreness afterward (9).
Be Aware of Your Limits
Don’t forget that this is a strenuous form of exercise so you might want to start slowly at first until you build up the strength and endurance needed to continue with it on a regular basis.
Even when you’ve mastered the technique, only increase the intensity by walking faster or longer if you’re able to handle it. As with any exercise routine, stop if you feel discomfort or pain.
The Bottom Line
Nordic walking is a great workout for those who want to get fit and stay healthy. By using your body weight as resistance, you can tone muscles and burn calories while improving cardio health and increasing endurance. The good news is that it’s easy to learn the technique and start taking advantage of this new fitness trend right away.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Dynamic Stretching | Stretches to Do Before Every Run (2021, runnersworld.com)
- Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic…: The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2010, journals.lww.com)
- Exercise During Pregnancy (2019, acog.org)
- Exercise for Brain Health: An Investigation into the Underlying Mechanisms Guided by Dose – Neurotherapeutics (2019, link.springer.com)
- Health Benefits of Nordic Walking (2013, ajpmonline.org)
- Load dynamics of joints in Nordic walking (2011, sciencedirect.com)
- Muscular and metabolic responses to different Nordic walking techniques, when style matters (2018, journals.plos.org)
- Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports (2020, mdpi.com)
- Role of Functional Beverages on Sport Performance and Recovery (2018, mdpi.com)
- Short-term and long-term effects of nordic walking training on balance, functional mobility, muscle strength and aerobic endurance among Hungarian community-living older people: a feasibility study (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients (2018, hindawi.com)