Fitness and Nordic walking instructor Stuart Montgomery extols the virtues of this modified Finnish sport, originally used as summer training for cross-country skiers. According to Montgomery, older clients don’t enjoy the “boredom, loud music and lycra” so often related with gyms and this gives them a chance to get out and socialise while at the same time providing a full-body workout.
Nordic walking uses poles to help you walk, a benefit for those who are unable to walk unassisted and taking pressure off sore joints. This adapted version caters for all age groups and fitness levels although it seems the older age bracket has taken to it more than anyone. However, Montgomery thinks it is still too early to tell as the sport was only introduced to the UK in 2004.
Scientific evidence suggests that the energy costing of Nordic walking can be up to 40% higher than ordinary walking – similar to a light run – without the mechanical loading on leg joints, making it a popular rehabilitation tool all over the UK.
It works your upper and lower body at the same time, strengthening your back, legs and arms, and reducing neck and shoulder tension – all the while improving the health of your heart and lungs.
Francis Mitchell, founder and managing director of Nordic Walking UK, highlighted these benefits for walkers:
Burn more calories
When Nordic walking you use your legs, your arms, the rear part of your shoulders, and your chest and back muscles. Because you are using more muscles in Nordic walking, you can burn 20% more calories than if you were walking at a normal speed.
Helps in the reduction of back, neck and shoulder pain
In the modern day, many people are sitting down, whether at home, working or in the car. Incorrect seating and bad posture can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain and tension. If your Nordic walking technique is good, it increases the rotation of the spine, strengthening spinal discs and reducing the incidence of pain. By using the poles, you are strengthening the large muscles of the back that pull down the shoulder blades, reducing shoulder and neck tension.
- With a good Nordic walking technique you are aiming to increase the work of the upper body, slightly exaggerating the normal walking movement without changing the natural rhythm.
- Walk naturally. Nordic walking is an enhancement of normal walking, not a different movement.
- To warm up, begin Nordic walking slowly and build up gradually. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Lean slightly forwards.
- Hands and poles remain close to your body.
- As your right foot moves forward, so does your left hand, and vice versa.
- Allow the sole of your foot to roll from your heel to the ball of your foot.
- Try to maintain the pole thrust behind the line of your pelvis.
- At the end of the pole thrust open your palms slightly and push into the strap. This creates a greater stretch of your arm and greater spinal rotation. With correct Nordic walking technique there is a clear swing of your shoulders and hips.
- Bring the pole forward with the grip first, not the tip end first. The pole tip remains behind the line of your body (don''t plant the poles in front of you). Stretch your body gently at the end of your walk.