What Is Nordic Walking?


“They forecasting snow today then love?”

“Oh look, here come the old folk!”

“…What is it you’re doing anyway?”

As anyone who Nordic Walks in public knows, you’re never short of attention and the comments above are fairly typical of the type of interest we arouse. However, give those wags a couple of poles and they get the point pretty quickly. Nordic Walking makes you WORK.

Nordic Walking requires you to push against the poles as you plant them behind the body, propelling yourself forward as you do so. By doing so over a sustained period, you put yourself through a total body workout. It doesn’t require the type of exertion that leaves you struggling for breath or an unflattering shade of red, but it’s impossible to Nordic Walk while using correct technique and not use 90% of the muscles in your body. The further you walk, the more you use those muscles.

Try this simple exercise to get an idea of the effect of Nordic Walking on the upper body:

  • Sitting at your desk, raise both your arms out in front of you, extending them as if offering a friendly handshake.
  • Make a loose fist of each hand and place them, thumbs up on your desk.
  • Sitting upright, alternately press one fist, then the other firmly into the desk. Do this repeatedly for 15 – 20 repetitions.
  • As you press, notice how a wave of contractions passes through your abdominal muscles as well as your upper back, arm, shoulder and chest muscles contracting each time you push.

You’ll perform 1,800 – 2,200 contractions of all these muscles per mile when using Nordic Walking poles, applying a similar force to your poles with each stride.

Nordic Walking acts on the body in the following ways:
  • Increases Cardiovascular Endurance

When you exert your body, be it climbing stairs, carrying shopping or running for the bus, your muscles demand extra amounts of oxygen in order to carry out the tasks you ask of them. In order for this extra oxygen to reach the muscles, the heart has to beat faster, sending blood to the areas that need it. If your heart is unused to extra demands made of it, you tire very quickly; stopping halfway up the stairs, dropping the shopping or letting the bus go without you, as you become too exhausted to finish what you started.

If you are to avoid not being able to carry out basic functions like these, you’ll need to exercise your heart regularly. This is known as a cardiovascular workout, building up the heart’s capacity to deal with increased workloads.

Nordic Walking provides an extremely efficient form of cardiovascular workout, in that unlike normal walking, running and other “half-body” exercises, your heart is forced to pump blood to every major muscle in the body, allowing the same intensity of work to be achieved for less effort than would be required where only the lower body is worked.

  • Builds Muscle Strength & Endurance

Unlike weights and resistance machine, walking with poles doesn’t require “overloading ” the muscle to the point of failure in order to build muscular strength and endurance. Instead, it simply puts every major muscle to work against relatively low levels of resistance for literally thousands of repetitions. In the average person, the effect is the same as in a gym – just less painful!

“Nordic Walking is like cross-country skiing without the skis. By using the lightweight poles to propel your stride, you add the large muscles of your upper body to your standard walking workout. Besides toning your arms, shoulders, and chest muscles (and believe us, you do ‘feel the burn’ the harder you push), you also boost your cardiovascular workout. Holding the poles forces you to swing your arms. The added benefit is 30% or greater caloric burn than walking without the poles, according to research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.” – Walking Magazine, September 1990

  • Helps Maintain Bone Density

It’s well established that low-impact weight bearing exercise is an important factor in the fight to ward off the effects of age-related osteoporosis. Forcing the bones to carry the weight of the body helps thms to become denser and stronger as they encouraged to pick up and use the calcium that a good diet, supplements and medication will supply.

Doctors will often prescribe regular walking for sufferers of osteoporosis and osteopenia, its precursor, but then also have to recommend some form of  resistance workout to ensure the needs of the upper body body are also met. The upper body involvement which is integral to Nordic Walking allows you to kill two birds with one stone.

  • Relief of Pressure on Joints

Because part of the body’s weight is shifted from load on the spine to the shoulders, upper back and arms, many walkers with joint problems find walking with poles significantly less painful than that without poles, or even with a walking stick. The stance required also often helps bring about improvements in balance and posture.

  • Enhances Mood

As with many other forms of exercise, Nordic Walking has been found to help bring about improvements in mood and relief from the day-to-day symptoms associated with a range of psychological and mental health conditions. A couple of added benefits are the “green gym effect” of exercising in outdoor and often beautiful environments, alongside the ability it affords to socialise whilst exercising.

Now that you’ve learned a little about what Nordic Walking is and how it works, why not find out what it could do for you? Call or email us to book your place on the next free taster course.