What does Nordic walking do for you?
Walking is great for losing a few pounds, increased fitness, supports your heart health, increases bone density, good for the joints and of course being outside promotes your wellbeing and mindfulness. Nordic walking increases all these benefits. By adding poles to your walk you are adding a fully body workout, the use of poles means your upper body is working alongside your lower body.
If you are new to this incredible sport or are just keen to know more, here’s a list of some of the benefits you’ll get when you start Nordic walking.
1. Enjoyment! You don’t need to be ‘sporty’ to enjoy Nordic Walking – and anyone can be good at it!
There are many things in life that we have to do because we are told to or ought to. Exercise should not be one of them. Nordic walking is simply a good walk made doubly effective by adding poles and clever technique. Exercising in the fresh air, the feeling of fitness and wellbeing it gives us, the places it takes us, the people they meet, the non-competitive nature of it and the ability to be good at it even (especially) if you’re not the ‘sporty’ type are part what makes Nordic walking so unique. You don’t need special gear but if you want advice or help on what to get just ask.
2. Calorie burning increased
Nordic walking is energy hungry, burning up to 45% more calories than just walking without poles. This is because Nordic walking brings many more muscles into play than ordinary walking – your chest, arms, shoulders, abs and other core muscles are all involved as well as your legs. Plus the poles propel you forwards helping you walk faster, raising your heart rate and expending energy!
3. Promotes bone growth and muscle toning.
Muscles need to be worked to stay in good shape and Nordic walking works over 90% of them. Public Health England specifically recommends Nordic walking as a muscle and bone strengthening and balance activity. It tones your legs, sculpts your arms, cinches your waist and tightens your core. Its weight bearing nature and the added resistance provided by the poles also helps improve bone health and strength.
4. Protect your joints!
Those walkers with sore hips or knees frequently tell me how good Nordic walking is for easing the stress on their lower body. Research supports this, comparing the forces on joints when Nordic walking versus ordinary walking on the flat, there was an overall reduction in the shear and compression forces on the hip and knee joints and an astonishing 28% reduction on the shear force at the knee. It was not just hips and knees, the lumber spine and ankles also benefited. Improved posture through Nordic walking, as well as taking some of the load off the lower body through the poles, clearly has huge benefits for your joints. Something I know from personal experience!
5. Heart and lung health promoted
Nordic walking gets your heart rate up. Much more so than regular walking. It also makes you puffed because you’re walking faster and using more muscles. The benefits of exercise for your heart and lungs are well documented. Amongst other things it helps lower blood pressure, reduces your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and keeps your arteries clear. Asthma sufferers who have started Nordic walking have also seen improvements in lung capacity.
6. Boosts your circulation
Exercise, if done at a sufficiently intense levels can improve circulation because it increases the rate at which blood is pumped round the body. However Nordic walking has added benefits. The technique encourages active roll through the foot, a full arm swing, and squeezing and opening the hands round the pole. All of which boosts circulation, particularly the efficient return of blood back to the heart. It also helps to reduce trips and falls, by promoting a heel strike, usually it’s our toes catching that trips us up.
7. Improves your lymph drainage
Our lymphatic system protect us from infection and disease and is a vital part of our immune system. We have clusters of lymph nodes all over our body including under our armpits and Nordic walking helps these in particular to function properly through its emphasis on good posture, correct breathing and a full arm swing. This can be particularly supportive for those recovering after breast cancer treatment, helping to reduce swelling and improving drainage of the lymph nodes.
8. Mindfulness and wellbeing
Exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety and it’s even more effective when done in our beautiful English countryside. Nature nurtures the soul, whatever the weather. Not only is Nordic walking outdoors, it’s also a great social activity – a stress busting, mood enhancing and friendship creating activity.
9. Visiting and exploring new places
I love to walk in new places and explore new footpaths! Bringing a variety of walks to the groups is my aim, Nordic walking provides a gateway for exploring. The poles provide support and the technique promotes good posture giving you the confidence and stamina to tackle challenges that you’d never thought possible!
There are a range of research papers available and the impact on various health conditions, link below:-
Which poles are right for me?
Having your own pair of Nordic walking poles is liberating. It enables you to go out any time you want, not just when there’s an organised walk on. You can use them when and where you like and you know that you have exactly the right sort of pole for you. I am always happy to lend poles till you decide Nordic Walking is for you!
So which poles are right for me?
The top manufacturers
Many companies make Nordic walking poles but sadly our choice in the UK is limited. Reputations change but currently the general view is:
- Leki– The largest manufacturer of trekking and Nordic walking poles with a huge range to choose from. They offer quality poles from budget to innovative top end designs. You’ll rarely go wrong with a Leki pole.
- Exel– The original Nordic walking pole brand from a high quality Finnish company. If you like trivia you may like to know that the company was formed in 1960 when three chemists started to produce electronic detonators to explosives. The name EXEL is derived from Explosive Eletronics. Their fixed Nordic walking poles and All Terrain tip system are excellent. They are the only manufacturer to sell a curved Nordic walking pole.
- Gabel– They used to have problems with the quality of their straps (on the first pair that I bought both straps failed on my first outing). The quality has since improved and they are now a popular budget adjustable pole.
- Fizan– An Italian manufacturer. Very few poles available in this country. The adjustable poles still use the old spin lock adjustment system.
Why does the carbon content of a pole matter?
It’s all to do with the amount of vibration you feel up the pole shaft when you punch the pole into the ground. The 100% carbon poles absorb the vibration better which is why they are so nice to use. If you’re a regular Nordic walker, walk on pavements or have neck/shoulder issues you should always use a 100% carbon pole. They are more expensive but worth it.
Should I go for fixed length or telescopic/adjustable?
It used to be that the adjustable Nordic waking poles were heavier and had more vibration than their fixed length counterparts, but that is no longer true. Good quality adjustable poles like the Leki Micro Flash are solid and extremely lightweight, although there is always the possibility of something going wrong if you are regularly putting the pole up and down. It is personal choice but I prefer Exel fixed length poles for reduced vibration. Telescopic poles do give you the ability to lengthen your pole if you find that Nordic walking has improved your posture and you are walking taller.
What about the straps – do I have a choice of sizes?
Each brand of pole manufacturer have their own strap system and they’re not interchangeable. However they all have straps to suit different hand sizes and most offer integrated strap gloves which give you greater control and power. When you buy new poles ask the seller if they will change your strap to a different size for free (most poles come with medium size straps suited more to mens hands). If they won’t you can always buy the straps separately, although they cost around £20 a pair.
Can I take my travel poles in hand luggage?
You’ll need to contact your airline to find out as some allow poles in hand luggage and some don’t.
Where can I buy poles from?
A search on the internet should give you a variety of buying options, including Amazon or Decathlon for budget poles, if you would like to purchase Exel or Leki I can help with this purchase.
I keep a selection of Leki and Exel spare parts in stock.