Nordic pole walking originated in Finland in the early 20th century as a summer training exercise for cross country skiers.
The real breakthrough of this activity as a practiced exercise came in 1997, when a Finnish company, in cooperation with athletes and sports medicine experts, invented a new wrist strap system to make the present-day Nordic walking technique possible.
With the proper technique and equipment – just two poles and good walking shoes – there’s an astonishing list of benefits to taking up Nordic pole walking.
Anyone can do Nordic pole walking, but there are particular benefits for older women. In fact, the greatest segment of the population who commit to this sport are over 55, with some avid Nordic pole walkers as old as 100.
This sport gives you a tall feeling – naturally aligning your spine and strengthening your core. Over 50% more muscles are engaged than walking without poles. Pole walking targets arms, abdominals, waist, chest, bottom, hips and thighs.
A side benefit? In particular, this helps burn the unwanted back fat and floppy arms that torment many of us!
Studies have also proven that pole walking is beneficial for breast cancer treated women with arm lymphedema.
With any sport or activity, it’s important to have the right equipment and instruction. Fortunately, Nordic pole walking is budget-friendly and the equipment is simple to transport. As stated above, all that is required is a good pair of walking shoes and two proper poles.
Lightweight shoes or trainers with a flexible sole are a necessity, as the foot bends when you push off for each stride.
“Don’t be tempted to use skiing, hiking or trekking poles, which are designed for totally different purposes,” says Cathy McNorgan of Wellesley, Ontario, a physiotherapist and certified Nordic walking instructor.
This article has specific information for seniors interested in purchasing poles. The author, Pete Edwards says, “Seniors and anyone with a balance issue should never be recommended to use 2-piece or 3-piece twist-lock or flip-lock walking poles.”
All Nordic walking poles have a spike tip at the bottom for walking on grass and trails. This spike is covered with a rubber boot-tip that grips sidewalks and indoor surfaces. Some poles have thick ergonomic handles, while others have a thin handle with a wrist strap. Any knowledgeable sporting goods store staff will be able to assist you with the right choice.
Average prices range from $70.00 to $200.00. A good addition to a birthday or Christmas list!
You can Nordic pole walk anywhere, in any season. Nordic walking can be done in any location – city or countryside.
Just step out your door – preferably with some good company – and away you go. You may initially think this is no different than going for an ordinary walk. The statistics prove differently!
This sport uses similar movements and muscles as cross-country skiing. The walking poles are ideal for wintry weather but also suited to any season and any landscape.
It’s also a sport that can be easily learned. “Trekking with poles is walking with serious attitude,” says Jayah Faye Paley, a certified trainer from California.
The cadences of the arms, legs and body are, rhythmically speaking, similar to those used in normal, vigorous walking. The range of arm movement regulates the length of the stride.
Most importantly, the proven health benefits are enormous. Research shows that this low impact, full body sport strengthens the upper body and core, decreases stress on the hips and knees, increases your heart rate and burns 20% more calories than simply walking.
According to Marja-Leana Keast, PT, “Nordic walking has also recently been investigated as a potential rehabilitation modality for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and fibromyalgia, post-acute coronary syndrome or congestive heart failure, and orthopaedic issues such as arthritis and peripheral neuropathies.”
Keast adds, “Nordic walking is great for cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation patients.”
Using poles offloads weight from hips, knees and lower spine, and into the upper body, making it ideal for some clients who have arthritis or low back pain, or are easing back into activity after surgery.
Have you tried Nordic pole walking? What are your favorite aspects of this activity? Do you have your own walking group? Please share your advice and experiences with the Sixty and Me community.