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Understanding Nordic Walking

Nordic walking is a new kind of fitness activity that blends the natural benefits of walking with some extra work for the upper body. In Nordic walking, the participant uses two poles to distribute pressure and allow the upper body to work along with the lower body. Some aspects of Nordic walking are based on traditional skiing, where two hand-operated poles are often central to the activity.

Uses of Nordic Walking

Some athletes, particularly skiers, use Nordic walking to keep themselves in good training condition during the off-season. Others use it to help alleviate some of the strains of walking or hiking on the lower body--especially when they have sustained a knee injury or similar limitation. Others just use this type of walking for a more holistic body workout. Lots of people are still realizing its specific uses for their fitness routine.

Benefits of Nordic Walking

Fitness experts have identified a lot of specific benefits of this asctivity. To start off with, it burns more calories than regular walking, raises the heart rate, and allows for more muscle groups to get exercise. Specifically, Nordic walking works the core muscles, which are the muscles in the body that help stabilize and support the body. Nordic walking incorporates the abdominals, as well as other muscles like the latissimus dorsi or “lat” muscles.

In terms of practical use, Nordic walking also makes it easier for individuals to climb hills because it takes more pressure off of the lower body joints. Specific Nordic walking practices can help provide rehabilitation for joint injuries, and allow those with a prior injury to go places on their own two feet with less pain and risk of future injury. Different speeds and styles of Nordic walking help to accommodate specific goals and intended uses for this kind of cross-country activity.

How it Works

In Nordic walking, the individual walks naturally, while holding the poles in front of the body. The activity makes use of the body's natural tendency to alternate arm and leg motion. When the right leg is forward, the left arm will be forward with the left pole, and vice versa. The opposite arm will push down on the pole and provide more forward motion along with the forward step of the leg.


Different types of Nordic walking use different kinds of walking poles. In general, walking poles should be shorter than skiing poles. Many of these poles are made of lightweight metals to provide easier portability. They often come with hand straps and other features that help beginners use them effectively. It’s important to get the right length of poles for use in Nordic walking, since poles that are not well fitted to the individual can cause inappropriate pressures on the joints.

The general idea of Nordic walking has generated many different walking styles, including Exerstride, Finnish and Pacerpole, as well as international competitions and a community of enthusiasts that reaches across the globe. It’s easy to learn more about this kind of new walking on the Internet and in popular fitness periodicals.

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