The fitness benefits of Nordic walking
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Exploring the many benefits of upping sticks and taking on Nordic walking
If your walk in the park is becoming, well, too much of walk in the park and you want to take your fitness to the next level, then Nordic walking could be the workout for you.
Gill Stewart from Nordic Walking UK describes it as ‘being on a cross trainer but outdoors’. ‘I took it up when I lived in the mountains of France because it provided a daily whole-body workout without me having to find a gym,’ she says. Unlike walking, Nordic walking uses the whole body, using the arms as well as the feet via specially designed walking poles that help propel the body forward. It’s similar to cross country skiing, but without the added challenge of skis and snow. In fact, it originated in Finland as a training regime for cross country skiers in the summer. It was introduced to the UK around 2004 and has diversified from a coaching technique for athletes to an all-round workout.
Nordic walking can be adapted to help those who are unfit or overweight wanting to become more active, or to provide extreme full body training for athletes including cyclists and runners. ‘It’s good for everything,’ says Gill. ‘It actually uses more muscles than those two sports, so it’s very cardiovascular and burns a lot of calories. However, the poles also provide support, so they make you feel lighter on your feet, which helps take the strain off lower body joints too,’ she says.
If getting out in the fresh air and improving fitness wasn’t an incentive, it burns around 50 per cent more calories than regular walking. It’s also been used to lose weight, ward off medical conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and is good for stress and anxiety.
Heidi Leaney started Nordic walking last year after being diagnose as pre-diabetic and suffering osteoarthritis in her knee, which forced her to lose weight. She was immediately hooked. ‘I have tried the gym and I felt like a hamster on a wheel and I found it didn’t do much for me compared with how hard you work. Nordic walking has complemented my weight loss program,’ she says.
A typical session with a qualified Instructor is around £6, but beginners are encouraged to take an introductory class to learn the technique. A good set of poles range from £45 to £60, but can go up to £200.
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Heidi credits Nordic walking with increased energy, feeling happier, losing weight and improved sleep levels. ‘Nordic walking has helped me tone and shape. I could literally feel the fat on my back disappearing as we walked. My gym is outside in nature.’