Nordic Walking Catching On: Tips For Powering Your Walk With Poles

Written By Kaisa Kokkonen Published March 19th, 2010

If you are like most of us, winter weather turns you into a couch potato. However, getting out and walking is not only good for boosting your mood during those cold, “gloomy” days, but it helps to keep your weight in check, too. Going for a walk is one of the best things you can do. Many people find it hard to be motivated to do it but if try one of the latest fitness trend, Nordic walking – you may get the necessary boost.

Walking with poles originated in Finland, hence the term “Nordic” walking. A group of cross-country skiers wanted to find a way to train during the off-season or when there was no snow. They found that walking with the help of special poles to propel the body with more power was a perfect way to stay in shape. The trend ignited throughout Europe and is especially popular in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany. In the USA, areas with a tradition of active, outdoorsy lifestyles like California, Vermont, Colorado, Arizona, Maryland and Florida have started to find it.

Some Nordic walk on their own or with a friend. Others attend group Nordic walking classes that are often offered by health clubs.
There are quite a few benefits when you add the poles. Walkers who want a greater challenge, or runners who want to lessen their impact, find that using poles helps propel them faster. People with joint injuries, beginning exercisers or seniors often find that the Nordic walking poles provide more support when walking.

Research from the Cooper Institute in Dallas found that a person can burn more than 40 percent more calories when Nordic walking compared to walking without poles. So a person who might burn around 350 calories walking for an hour, could burn up to 500 calories using the Nordic walking technique. Or they could burn the same amount of calories in a shorter amount of time: walking for 40 minutes without poles is about equivalent in calories to walking 25 minutes using the Nordic walking technique.

To get started, all you need are a pair of poles, comfortable clothes and a pair of walking shoes. The poles should fit your height so that they can function as an extension of your arms as you swing.

One manufacturer, Excel, recommends the following pole sizes based on height. If you are:

# Less than 5’1”, use poles that are 105 cm
# Less than 5’4”, use poles that are 110 cm
# 5’4″ to 5’7″, use poles that are 115 cm
# 5’7″ to 5’10”, use poles that are 120 cm
# Over 5’10, use poles that are 125 cm
# Over 6’2″ use poles 130 cm
# Over 6’4”, use poles that are 135 cm

However, the height of the Nordic Walker is not the only factor to be considered when choosing the correct pole length. Other important factors are level of fitness, joint mobility, proportions of limbs, walking speed, terrain, and the long-term objectives of the individual.

You can purchase poles online or at a local sporting goods store – and a professional sales assistants should be able to assist with proper sizing.

You can Nordic walk on pavement, asphalt roads, off-road dirt trails and even snow. The poles have special tips. On concrete or hard surfaces you can use the end with a rubber “paw” for traction. You can remove the rubber tip to expose a metal spike that will help keep you stable. That may be necessary if you are in dirt, ice or snow.

Appropriate shoes such as hiking books or snow boots should be worn when walking on varying terrain.

I was always told that to really master the Nordic walking technique, I must lean slightly forward as I walk, planting the poles in front of your body — next to the foot that is stepping to the front, to support the forward lean and push off to propel you forward. It is easy to walk with the poles without really employing the proper technique, so it is important to practice.

I once read in someone’s interview who said something like “when you’ve GOT IT, it feels almost like a ball rolling down a hill and you feel in sync with the poles and your stride”.

You should increase the length of each step you take and lean into the hill when you are going uphill. Vice versa going downhill, shorten your stride, lean slightly back as if you were sitting into the slope of the incline and use the poles as brakes to slow down your descent.

As usual. always make sure to check with your doctor and warm-up before doing any strenuous exercise. If you are going outside in the cold, dress in layers, cover your head and hands and bring water and snacks, especially if you will be out for long periods of time.

I can assure (from my personal experience after my older sister took for a leisurely 3 miles Nordic Walk in Finland) you will find out you have muscles hurting the following day, you did not even know having. It really is great exercise!

For more information check out Exel is the original Nordic Walking brand. Exel has created educational programming for training techniques, instruction, and warm-up and stretching exercises.

Roger Due

Investing in Your Destiny® & Coaching Program - Wealth Building Summit Dallas, Texas

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