Welcome to the invigorating world of Nordic Walking! As we step into 2023, this full-body exercise has become a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts and fitness seekers alike.
In recent years, Nordic Walking has skyrocketed in popularity. It’s not just a trend, but a lifestyle choice for many. This activity, which originated from cross-country skiing, is now a universally accepted form of exercise that can be enjoyed throughout the year. With specially designed walking poles in hand, it offers an opportunity to engage your whole body while appreciating the beauty of nature around you.
Stay with us as we delve deeper into this exciting outdoor activity and provide you with all the necessary information to get started on your Nordic Walking journey.
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking is a specific fitness technique and a full-body version of walking that can be enjoyed both by non-athletes as a health-promoting physical activity, and by athletes as a sport. The activity is performed with specially designed walking poles similar to ski poles.
Nordic Walking originated in Finland in the early 20th century as a summer training regimen for cross-country skiers. It was initially called “ski walking” and didn’t gain popularity until the late 1990s when it was rebranded as Nordic Walking.
How It Differs from Regular Walking
While regular walking involves exerting force with your feet and legs, Nordic Walking engages the upper body as well. Here’s how:
- Use of Poles: Unlike regular walking, Nordic Walking involves two poles that are planted behind you to push you forward. This mimics the motion of cross-country skiing.
- Full Body Engagement: In regular walking, the lower body does most of the work. But in Nordic Walking, the use of poles engages the upper body, leading to a more comprehensive workout. The poles help to propel the walker along, this means you move faster than normal walking, but the support from the poles makes it feel easier.
- Increased Calorie Burn: Due to the involvement of the upper body muscles, Nordic Walking can burn up to 46% more calories compared to regular walking.
- Reduced Impact on Joints: The walking poles used in Nordic Walking help reduce the impact on joints, making it a suitable exercise for people with joint conditions or those recovering from injuries.
The Health Benefits of Nordic Walking
Nordic Walking is more than just a walk in the park. This dynamic activity offers numerous health benefits, both physically and mentally. Here’s a closer look at how Nordic Walking can enhance your wellbeing:
Physical Health Benefits
- Full-Body Workout: Unlike regular walking, which primarily targets your lower body, Nordic Walking engages muscles in your arms, shoulders, core, and legs. This results in a comprehensive workout that improves overall strength and endurance.
- Calorie Burn: The full-body engagement of Nordic Walking means you burn more calories compared to regular walking or running. It’s an excellent exercise for weight management or weight loss.
- Improved Cardiovascular Health: Nordic Walking is an effective aerobic exercise that increases heart rate and improves blood circulation. Regular participation can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Joint-Friendly: The use of poles in Nordic Walking provides support and balance, reducing the impact on the knees and other joints. It’s an ideal exercise for individuals with joint conditions or those recovering from injuries.
- Better Posture and Balance: The action of Nordic Walking encourages a straighter posture and improves balance and coordination.
Mental Health Benefits
- Stress Reduction: Being outdoors and engaging in physical activity is a great stress reliever. The rhythmic motion of Nordic Walking can induce a calming effect, similar to a meditative state.
- Boosts Mood: Like any other form of exercise, Nordic Walking triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. Regular walkers often report feeling happier and more energized after their walks.
- Improves Cognitive Function: Regular physical activity like Nordic Walking has been associated with better cognitive function, including improved concentration, memory, and creativity.
Whether you’re aiming for a stronger body, a healthier heart, or a happier mind, Nordic Walking is an excellent choice. It’s a fun, accessible, and effective way to improve your overall health and well-being.
Essential Gear for Nordic Walking
To get the most out of your Nordic Walking experience, you’ll need some specific equipment. Here’s a list of essential gear for Nordic Walking:
- Nordic Walking Poles: These are the most crucial parts of your gear. Unlike hiking or trekking poles, Nordic Walking poles have a glove-like grip that allows you to release the pole after each stride. They are usually made from lightweight materials like carbon fiber or aluminum.
- Proper Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes with good cushioning and grip are essential. Depending on the terrain, you might prefer trail shoes (for off-road, uneven surfaces) or road running shoes (for flat, even surfaces).
- Comfortable Clothing: Wear breathable, moisture-wicking clothes that allow freedom of movement. Layer your clothing so you can adjust to changing weather conditions.
- Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important, especially during longer walks or on hot days. Consider a lightweight, reusable water bottle.
- Sun Protection: Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
- Backpack or Waist Pack: A small pack can be handy for carrying essentials like water, snacks, and a first aid kit.
Remember, the right gear can make a significant difference in your Nordic Walking experience. It can enhance your performance, ensure your comfort, and prevent potential injuries. So, invest wisely and choose items that suit your needs and preferences.
Key Techniques for Beginners: Mastering Nordic Walking
Whether you’re a seasoned walker looking for a new challenge or a beginner starting your fitness journey, mastering the basics of Nordic Walking is crucial. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started:
- Choosing the Right Pole Length: Your poles should reach your armpits when standing upright with them on the ground. An adjustable pole can be a good option as you can adjust the length to suit different terrains.
- Holding the Poles Correctly: Slip your hand through the strap from below and grasp the pole handle. The strap should lie across the back of your hand. Your grip on the handle should be relaxed, not tight.
- The Arm Swing: Start with a natural arm swing as if you were walking without poles. Your arms should swing back and forth from the shoulder, not the elbow. The arm opposite your forward foot swings forward.
- Planting the Pole: Plant the pole at an angle behind you, not straight down next to your foot. The pole tip should hit the ground when your arm is at the back of its swing.
- Pushing Off: Apply pressure through your hand onto the pole to propel yourself forward. This push-off should engage your chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.
- Releasing the Pole: At the end of the arm swing, open your hand to release the pole. The strap will keep the pole attached to your hand. Your arm should then swing forward to begin the next pole plant.
- Walking Rhythm: Try to establish a steady rhythm. This might take some practice but aim for a smooth, flowing motion where your opposite arm and leg swing forward together.
Remember, like any new skill, Nordic Walking takes time to master. Practice regularly, and don’t worry if you find it tricky at first. With time and patience, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Choosing the Right Nordic Walking Poles
When it comes to Nordic Walking, choosing the right poles is crucial. Here’s a guide to help you make the best choice based on your height, weight, and the terrain you’ll be walking on:
- Height: The pole length should match your height. A general rule of thumb is to multiply your height in centimeters by 0.68. If you’re between sizes, round down for more control and stability, or round up for a more intense workout.
- Weight: Heavier individuals may require sturdier poles. Look for poles made from strong materials like carbon fiber, which can withstand more force without bending or breaking.
- Terrain: If you’ll be walking on various terrains, consider adjustable poles that can be lengthened for downhill walks and shortened for uphill climbs. Fixed-length poles are lighter and less likely to break, making them a good choice for flat, even terrains.
- Grip Material: Cork grips absorb sweat, making them comfortable for long walks. Rubber grips are durable and good for colder weather, while foam grips are light and comfortable but less durable.
- Strap: Look for a secure and comfortable strap that allows for easy release of the pole at the end of each stride.
- Tip: Carbide or steel tips are ideal for off-road or icy conditions, while rubber tips (or paws) are best for pavement and other hard surfaces.
Choosing the right Nordic Walking poles is a personal decision. What works well for one person might not work as well for another. Consider your specific needs and preferences, and don’t hesitate to try different poles until you find the perfect fit.
Start Your Nordic Walking Journey Today!
Nordic Walking is an enjoyable and effective way to get outside, stay fit, and have fun. With a little preparation and the correct equipment, you can leverage this outdoor exercise to enhance your health, improve your mood, and explore the great outdoors.
Don’t forget to plan: choose the right gear, practice proper form and technique, and enjoy the outdoor scenery as you go. So, grab your Nordic Walking poles and take the first step towards a fun and rewarding fitness journey today!