Poles aren't just for skiing anymore. Nordic walking offers fitness enthusiasts a unique workout that combines fun physical activity and maximum health benefits. According to Malin Svensson, author of Nordic Walking (Human Kinetics, May 2009), walking with poles offers a low-impact exercise that increases the heart rate as much as running does.
Studies have shown that Nordic walking burns more calories than regular walking. Research done by the Cooper Institute proves Nordic walking burns an average of 20 percent more calories than walking without poles. Some people tested also increased as much as 46 percent in oxygen consumption and caloric expenditure.
Similar to an elliptical trainer, Nordic walking uses both the upper and lower halves of the body, but Svensson says Nordic walking offers more upper-body benefits. "The elliptical machine uses bent arms and mainly works muscles crossing the shoulder joint, such as the chest and the back muscles," she explains. "But Nordic poles allow you to also straighten the elbow behind you, shaping your triceps." Nordic poles are measured according to a walker's height, as opposed to the elliptical machine, which is one size fits all, Svensson adds.
In Nordic Walking, Svensson offers skills for maintaining an injury-free experience and ensuring that participants gain some of these benefits of the sport:
- Burn more calories (20 to 46 percent).
- Increase aerobic capacity even at a slow speed.
- Increase upper-body strength.
- Increase heart rate (5 to 30 beats per minute).
- Take pressure off the joints.
- Decrease neck and shoulder pain.
- Increase upper-body mobility.
- Increase functional capacity.
- Feel less effort, even though the body works harder.
- Improve balance and stability, making it safe to walk.
- Improve gait and coordination.
- Improve core musculature and posture.
- Create a meditative and calming effect.
For more information, see Nordic Walking.