Nordic Walking

Summary

  • A type of walking that incorporates a specific set of poles and technique to activate the upper body
  • The concept of Nordic walking began in Scandinavia when cross country skiers incorporated the poles into their summer training (when there was no snow), to maintain their upper body strength and fitness
  • It allows people to work at their own pace and ability

On this page

What is Nordic walking?

Nordic walking involves a specific technique and set of poles to activate the upper body and provide a very beneficial type of exercise.  

It is an exercise option for people who find exercise difficult or uncomfortable to do or who want variation in their exercise. Nordic walking allows people to work at their own pace, within their specific pain limits and abilities.

If you can walk, you can Nordic walk! 

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How did it begin?

The concept of Nordic walking (walking with poles) established its roots in Scandinavia when cross country skiers incorporated the poles into their summer training (when there was no snow), to maintain their upper body strength and fitness. 

In the 1990’s, Nordic walking became accepted as a recreational activity following a partnership between a manufacturing company ‘Exel’ and ‘Suomen Latu’ (The Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities). In 1997 Exel developed the first set of Nordic walking poles.

From there Nordic walking has been spreading across the globe with more and more people reaping the benefits.

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What are the benefits?

Exercise in general provides many benefits to individuals. It can have immediate and long-term health benefits.  

There have been many studies showing the benefits specific to Nordic walking. 

Below is a list showing the potential benefits that Nordic walking can provide: 

  • improves mood, self esteem and quality of life 
  • greater cardio-respiratory fitness when compared to walking without poles 1
  • improves balance 1
  • reduces chronic neck and back pain 1
  • improves gait speed 
  • improves physical function
  • increases flexibility 3
  • strengthens muscles, particularly upper body 3
  • provides stability and aid for less confident walkers 
  • burns more calories - 20% more compared to regular walking 4
  • engages all major muscle groups
  • reduces the weight and impact from the hips, knees and ankles joints 1
  • improves posture 1
  • improves co-ordination 1.

Research has shown that Nordic walking provides many benefits to overall health, however more extensive research is still needed around the benefits specifically for people with different muscle, bone and joint conditions.

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Features of the Nordic walking pole

Hand grip: This is the part the poles you hold onto and is often made of cork to allow for comfort when holding. 

Wrist strap: These come in different sizes to allow comfort when strapped into the poles. This feature is essential to allow for the correct technique to be performed and a particularly beneficial feature for people with arthritis in the hands and fingers, as you do not need to grip too strongly.

Shaft: The best type of shaft is one that is made up of mainly carbon fibre, providing strength and durability whilst still remaining light. The shaft comes in fixed length (dependant on your height) or adjustable forms.

Basket: This acts as a stopper to prevent the pole being planted too far in the ground, especially in surfaces like sand.

Metal tip: This provides grip when walking on softer surfaces like grass and sand.

Rubber foot: These are used for hard surfaces like concrete, to allow protection of the metal tip whilst still providing grip when you walk.

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How do Nordic walking poles differ from other poles?

To work out whether a pole is a Nordic walking pole, ask yourself the following questions:

  • is there a wrist strap? 
  • does the wrist strap wrap around my hand and thumb securely?
  • does the rubber foot have an angled bottom so that when I hold the pole on the diagonal it makes complete contact with the ground?

If you would like to purchase Nordic walking poles call us on 8531 8000 or 1800 263 265.

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The Nordic walking technique

Nordic walking creates a total body workout and provides many health and fitness benefits, however this is true only for a correct technique.  

The six elements of the basic technique 

  • alternate arm/leg action 
  • long and relaxed arm swing forward
  • downward pressure through pole
  • foot roll and toe push off 
  • push body past the pole
  • open hand release position.

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If I lose my rhythm, how can I regain my technique?

  1. Begin by walking naturally, gently holding the poles back on a diagonal and simply dragging them along. 
  2. When ready, begin to swing the arms (they should naturally swing forward with the opposite leg). 
  3. Start to plant the poles as you swing the arms forward and then apply downward pressure into the straps.
  4. Begin to take longer strides and focus on rolling the foot from the heel to the ball with each step.
  5. Propel your body forward and push the poles back behind your hip, straightening the elbow.
  6. Open the hand when the arm is completely back behind the body.

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References

  1. Tschentscher M, Niederseer D, Niebauer J. Health benefits of Nordic walking: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013; 44 (1): 76-84.
  2. Figueiredo S, Finch L, Mai J, Ahmed S, Huang A, Mayo N. Nordic walking for geriatric rehabilitation: A randomized pilot trial. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2013; 35 (11): 968-975.
  3. Parkatti T, Perttunen J, Wacker P. Improvements in functional capacity from Nordic walking: a randomized-controlled trial among elderly people. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2012; 20 (1): 93.
  4. Church T, Earnest C, Morss G. Field testing of physiological responses associated with Nordic walking. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2002; 73 (3): 296-300.

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More information

  • Need information regarding your condition and commonly prescribed treatments? Or assistance navigating the health, disability and social services systems?  Do you want to speak to someone who has a chronic musculoskeletal condition, and can understand what you are going through? Contact our Help Line on 1800 263 265.
  • Interested in finding out about our upcoming Nordic walking classes and courses, as well as webinars and seminars? Click here to learn more.

Download a PDF of this information.

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