While walking is an easy fitness routine with many health benefits, Nordic walking kicks those benefits up a notch by using poles for active arm motion. The movement resembles cross-country skiing, but you won’t need snow or skis. Nordic walking engages your upper body muscles by using poles for planting and pushing off to propel you forward.
In other words, basic walking works the lower body while Nordic walking adds an upper body workout. It can be done on neighborhood sidewalks as well as inclined terrains and is a great cardiovascular activity for all ages and ability levels.
The specially designed Nordic walking poles minimize the impact on joints, making this fitness trend popular with older adults too. You don’t need to be athletic either. Once you learn how to use the poles, you just need to walk. Your ability level and physical fitness will determine your walking speed and gait width. As with any new fitness routine, check with your physician before starting, especially if you have medical or physical challenges.
History and Popularity
Nordic walking has gained momentum in the US over the last decade. Its origins stem from early 20th century Finland as a way to train cross-country skiers during hot months. Since then, it’s become a popular fitness activity worldwide. It’s especially popular in many communities in the United States as well as northern Europe.
Health Benefits of Nordic Walking
- Getting and staying physically active boosts your overall health
- Increases both your upper and lower body fitness
- Boosts muscle strength, balance, and posture
- Improves your heart and lung health
- Easy to learn since the movement is very basic once you get the technique down
- Low-impact fitness activity that’s gentle on the joints
- Fun social activity, especially if you join a walking group that can help keep you motivated
As a beginner, you can learn Nordic walking techniques from a certified instructor or instructional videos online. Either way, start with short, slow outings until you get comfortable walking while using the poles. Be sure to also start with a warm-up, end with a cool-down, and keep well hydrated.
Fortunately, Nordic walking requires minimal equipment for beginners. A pair of specialized poles with wrist straps are the most essential must-have item. Nordic walking poles help to propel your body forward and provide an upper body workout. Look for a sturdy, lightweight pair.
You can choose fixed-length poles or collapsible and adjustable height poles. If you want your poles to easily travel in a backpack, pick a collapsible pair. You’ll also need pole tips for the type of ground you will be walking along. For example, use rubber pole tips for concrete sidewalks.
As a beginner, don’t feel pressured to buy pricey poles. You can try Nordic walking with an inexpensive pair, and if you truly enjoy this fitness trend, you can invest in a better quality set.
Another helpful item is a small backpack to stash essentials like a water bottle, sunscreen, cell phone, and a light layer of clothing if you’re too hot or too cold.
What to Wear
The best choice is clothing that allows you to fully swing your arms and legs. You won’t be comfortable if your arm, shoulder, or leg movements are restricted. Your ideal clothing choices should include flexible fabrics that offer UV protection.
Consider UV Skinz Men’s Long Sleeve Active Sun & Swim Shirt and Women’s Active Sport Swim Tights that offer UPF 50+ sun protection. Don’t forget a full spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ or higher and wear wraparound sunglasses with a 100% UVA/UVB rating. Be sure to also check out other sun-safe apparel and accessories like sun hats from UV Skinz.
Lastly, you will need a sturdy but flexible pair of walking shoes with a good sole grip and a well-cushioned heel.
So grab your new walking poles and introduce your besties to the Nordic walking fitness trend! Make it a fun alternative to a coffee or lunch meetup. You can also sign up for a local Nordic walking group and make more friends while getting fit and walking to new places.