Exercise: Nordic Walking

Have you ever wanted to exercise harder but without all the effort? It seems too good to be true, but Nordic walking can provide you with just such a workout. You will actually be gaining a greater health benefit than you would believe once you get going.

Nordic walking got its inspiration from - you guessed it - cross-country skiing. Walkers use poles just like the skiers to maintain stride and balance.

Here is how it works. The poles are strapped to the wrists. Strides are long as if you were walking on skis instead of in sneakers. Just like normal walking, the foot rolls from heel to toe and repeats.

The arms move in time with the poles. The opposite arm works with the opposite leg. For complete range of motion, the arm is extended in front and also behind the body. The poles swing around the body diagonally, creating a twisting motion in the waist that works the abdominals. The motion is smooth and not jerky.

The upper body leans slightly forward as you swing. When going uphill, the body continues to lean even farther forward for balance. The poles are still used when walking uphill.

On the downhill stride, the poles are kept behind you instead of swinging on either side. The stride is shorter and the knees are bent at a greater angle so that you don’t descend the hills too fast.

It takes a little time to get the hang of the stride. For beginners, walk on flat ground until you get used to handling and balancing with the poles. Then, you can attempt to tackle hills and uneven terrain.

So, what can you expect from a consistent Nordic walking program? First, you will burn more calories than just normal walking. Your upper body is engaged throughout the walk. Your abdomen and upper and lower torso muscle groups are also in constant action, which strengthens them.

Research has shown that your heart rate can reach an intensity equal to running. But, the good news is that when you are finished, you won’t feel like you’ve just been running for miles. Because it is a low impact exercise, you don’t have the joint stress or joint pain from too much pounding.

The upper body work helps to release tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Many people carry their stress there. Speaking of stress, over time it will disappear as your mood becomes more optimistic and you gain energy.

Are you looking for an exercise that will help you lose weight and manage your stress? Nordic walking may be for you. Join a local group or learn the stride yourself and test it before investing in the poles.