Walking is the easiest way to exercise. We do it naturally and it uses all the muscles, ligaments and joints of the lower body, from the waist down. It’s also good for cardiovascular health and our general well-being, and we all need a bit of that.
However, a regular walk doesn’t do much for muscles above the waist, as you don’t need them to propel yourself along. Nordic walking is a great way to extend the benefits of walking to your entire body. Done correctly, it’s a full-body workout and if that doesn’t sound like you, think again!
What Is Nordic Walking?
This involves walking with hand-held poles (very similar to ski poles), which help to push you along and steady your balance. It started in Finland where cross-country skiers use it to keep in shape at times when there is less snow.
So, why is walking with poles such a good idea?
Low Impact and Good for Balance
Using poles as you walk distributes your weight evenly throughout your body. The impact isn’t focused solely on your hips, knees, feet and ankles as it is with regular walking. This helps to protect your lower body from wear and tear and injury.
Walking poles also help maintain your balance. This is especially important for older folks as decreasing muscle mass affects strength and stability (this can be any of us in later life).
This all helps to keep muscles, soft tissues and joints in good shape without placing them under too much stress.
Works the Upper Body
Nordic walking activates numerous muscles in your back, chest, shoulders and arms – muscles that do very little when you walk without poles. This is vital at any time but especially as we age – muscles become weaker and ligaments more fragile and prone to injury. Using the poles keeps everything moving, tones and strengthens.
Core Strength and Posture
By using the poles you force the muscles of your abdomen and back to work much harder than normal. This is hugely beneficial as it increases the stability of the hips, pelvis and lower back. A strong core improves posture and flexibility, and helps to avoid dangerous falls.
Many of us have bad posture as we hunch over laptops or slouch in front of the TV. We also tend to slump forward when walking, particularly when going uphill. Walking poles provide good support so we don’t need to lean forward for balance.
Clearly, Nordic walking engages more muscles than regular walking. This forces your heart to work harder than normal, which is just what you need to keep it in good shape. A healthy heart means lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels and LDL (bad cholesterol). It also means higher HDL (good cholesterol) and less likelihood of serious issues like heart conditions and diabetes.
How Do You Start?
This isn’t just walking with poles; there is a specific technique you should use to gain the most benefit. You also need the right poles and footwear, so it’s important to have a few lessons before you start.
There are clubs and instructors all over the UK as Nordic walking increases in popularity. It’s also a great way to meet new people and have fun – it’s always easier exercising with others.
Get the Right Advice Before You Start
Always speak to a professional before beginning any new exercise. Feet By Pody can help with footwear and exercise advice and all lower limb issues.