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Nordic Walking is a low-impact total body exercise. It is a specific fitness technique and not simply walking with poles like trekking or hiking.
Using the correct technique, which is similar to cross country skiing, Nordic Walking poles (which are different to hiking poles) are planted behind you to propel you along using the power of the upper body (back, arms and core) as well as the legs – making it easier to work quite hard.
Nordic Walking uses the massive power from the entire upper body to turn a “2-wheel drive” activity, such as regular walking or running into a “4-wheel drive” activity engaging over 90% of the body’s skeletal muscles and burning over 40% more calories than regular walking.
Nordic Walking can be enjoyed at many levels, at low, medium, or high intensity. It combines the simplicity and accessibility of walking with core and upper body conditioning – resulting in a full body workout. And because Nordic Walking doesn’t feel like hard work, you’ll be happy to walk further and for longer.
Nordic Walking is just starting to take off in Australia, but it has been very popular in Europe and America for many years. In Germany and Austria in particular, Nordic Walking has been around since the 1930s – initially as a summer training technique for cross-country skiers.
Between 8% and 10% of the German and Austrian populations are estimated to Nordic Walk – that makes for around 7 million Germans Nordic Walking – supported by around 10,000 Nordic Walking Instructors.
Capital Nordic Walking has taught over 2,000 people to Nordic Walk in Canberra, and we coordinate several free weekly Nordic Walking Group Walks - which are very popular.
Nordic Walking and Hiking are quite different to each other; the poles are designed differently; the purpose for using the poles is different - as are the technique and benefits.
Hiking poles are designed to be used in an upright position in front of the body to reduce the load of the pack and to prevent falling over on rough terrain. Nordic walking poles are positioned on an angle behind the body to propel you forward, promote a healthy upright walking posture, activate the muscles in the back of the legs, core, back, shoulders and arms. This promotes strengthening of over 90% of the body's muscles and results in double the number of calories burnt than regular walking.
Nordic Walking poles also provide stability for the walker and when used correctly can result in taking up to 10kg of load/strain off the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. Hiking poles are simple to use but do not provide the benefits of Nordic Walking. There are other types of walking poles such as BungyPumps which are not Nordic Walking poles.
When Nordic Walking poles are used correctly you end up harnessing the power of the upper body muscles which helps to tone the upper body and improve posture, while the greater stride and roll through the foot conditions the legs and buttocks.
Key benefits of Nordic Walking include:
1. Works the whole body – uses more than 90% of muscles – more than regular walking, running, cycling, and swimming
2. Increased muscle use leads to increased cardio-vascular workout by up to 25% compared to regular walking
3. Burns up to 40% more calories than regular walking
4. Tones upper arms, shoulders, back and leg muscles
5. Develops core stability and strength
6. Promotes upright posture
7. Helps ease neck and back pain
8. Decreases load and strain on ankles, knees, hips, and lower back
9. Suitable for all ages and fitness levels from super-fit to effective rehabilitation
Each time you apply pressure through the Nordic Walking pole wrist strap - with a long extended arm - the action causes a contraction of the core muscles surrounding the spine.
Try this simple exercise to get a sense of how it works - Make two fists and place them on your desk with your thumbs up. Make certain that your elbows are not resting on the desk’s surface. Finally, sit upright and alternately press one fist, then the other firmly into the desk repeatedly for 15 -20 repetitions.
As you do this, notice how a wave of contractions goes through your abdominal muscles as well as large back, arm, shoulder, chest, and important “core strength” muscles contract each time you push.
Anywhere that you can enjoy walking – you can Nordic Walk – urban street pathways, cycleways, sports fields, dirt roads, mountains, and beaches. Oh! And of course, in the snow!!!
Absolutely! If you really want to develop a great Nordic Walk technique and get the maximum benefits.
The truth is that you don’t need lessons to walk with poles! Anyone can buy a pair of poles and start walking with them. Whether they are doing it correctly is another thing. It’s a bit like golf and tennis that way. But like golf and tennis, if you want to do it well, avoid getting injuries and get the maximum benefits, it’s a good idea to get lessons from a qualified and experienced Nordic Walking Instructor.
Learning to Nordic Walk is a bit like learning to ride a bike. The first few times it can feel a bit strange. But once you’ve mastered it, it feels natural and easy – like you’ve always done it.
We have seen some Nordic Walkers out and about who haven’t had lessons and are clearly not getting the benefits; they are often failing to engage and use their upper body to propel them along – and are basically “taking their poles for a walk”!
It’s important to note that it varies as to how long it can take to master the technique to a point where it feels natural. From our experience, people who practice 3-4 times per week start to feel comfortable with the poles and it becomes an automatic movement after around 4-6 weeks. Some people achieve mastery much faster, and some take a little longer.
Capital Nordic Walking provides a range of course options including Nordic Walking for Fitness and Nordic Walking for Balance and Mobility.
Prices of courses vary depending on the number of people in a course - they range from private courses, couples/mates courses all the way up to groups of 6.
Nordic Walking is a safe and highly effective form of exercise for everyone. Anyone, any age, who can walk can Nordic Walk. Even dogs can come along for a Nordic Walk! For people who find walking difficult due to painful joints, poor balance or lack of energy Nordic Walking can assist them to walk more comfortably and safely.
Research has found that the rate of perceived exertion in Nordic Walking is lower. This means that if you have reduced fitness or low energy - such as with Chronic Fatigue or when going through treatment for cancer, you can maintain the activity for longer without feeling exhausted. People with higher levels of fitness can continue the activity at a heart rate levels equal to running.
Nordic Walking has been proven to be very effective in assisting people with a range of health conditions. Nordic Walking is an effective rehabilitation measure that can be individually adapted to assist with injury-recovery, acute and chronic conditions including arthritis and other joint conditions, diabetes, and cardiovascular-related and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and stroke.
Weight Loss Benefits: Nordic Walking is an ideal activity choice for sustainable weight loss. The utilization of all major muscle groups results in greater calorie consumption and less perceived effort by the walker. Also, because Nordic Walking can be social, uses simple equipment and is done outside, it is an activity that people who struggle with gym-type environments often enjoy doing.
Chronic Disease Management: Nordic Walking is being used worldwide in the treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, neuromuscular and cardiovascular-related diseases. Importantly, Nordic Walking can be adapted to cater for patient’s individual needs and geared to achieve specific outcomes. Rehabilitation: Increasingly Nordic Walking is being prescribed by podiatrists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, Pilates therapists and other healthcare professionals as a highly effective rehabilitation measure.
Nordic Walking is an ideal cross-training exercise for sports competitors at all levels. Using Nordic Walking poles to walk, bound or run, athletes can achieve cardiovascular results like other high-intensity activities. In addition, Nordic Walking:
1. Spreads the workout across the entire body – reducing strain on any one body area
2. Sustains and builds general aerobic conditioning
3. Helps strengthen total musculature
4. Decreases load on strained or at-risk ligaments, tendons, bones, joints
5. Develops co-ordination and learning of a new motor skill and movement pattern
6. Promotes muscular endurance of minor muscle groups
One of the great things about Nordic Walking is that it is something that can be done and enjoyed individually or as a group activity. Some people enjoy the solo, meditative nature of Nordic Walking. Others like the social aspect of Nordic walking together with others. Anywhere that you can walk – you can Nordic Walk – urban street pathways, cycleways, sports fields, dirt roads, mountains, and beaches.
A popular way to enjoy Nordic Walking is to join up with other people so that you can chat and enjoy your workout and the scenery together. Capital Nordic Walking will be offering regular monthly Group Nordic Walking sessions for experienced Nordic Walkers.
Capital Nordic Walking coordinates several regular group Nordic Walks, and we also host a Closed Facebook Page - Capital Nordic Walkers Connect where Canberra's Nordic Walkers can connect up and walk with each other.
Nordic Walking and hiking poles are used for different purposes, so they are designed differently, are used with a different technique, and give different benefits. Nordic Walking poles have been scientifically researched and tested to ensure that they comfortable and effectively facilitate the proper Nordic Walking arm action – ensuring maximum power transfer from your body through the poles as you propel yourself along with the poles behind the body.
Trekking poles are generally used in front of the body for balance and are designed to assist with the weight load of backpack. In general, the trekker is not trying to push themselves forward in the way Nordic Walkers do. Therefore, they plant the poles more in front of their body at a much more upright angle.
A key difference between the two poles is the wrist strap. The Nordic Walking pole has a strap (some call it glove) that is attached to the grip. The reason for the wrist strap is twofold. Firstly, for Nordic Walking is to apply pressure through the strap onto the pole. One can apply far more pressure through the strap onto the pole than holding onto the grip and applying pressure that way. The second reason for the Nordic Walking pole wrist strap is the Nordic Walking technique – once you push your body past the pole forward, you need to open the hand to get the pole further back behind the body and for the pole to become an extension of the arm. The handle of the Nordic Walking pole is more slender than a hiking pole. You never firmly grip a Nordic Walk pole as you might a hiking pole – which has an ergonomic handle. Nordic Walking poles have an angled rubber pad as the poles remain behind the body on a 45-degree angle, whereas hiking poles have a rounded pad to accommodate the upright position of the pole.
You will need to use Nordic Walking poles which are different to hiking or trekking poles. Capital Nordic Walking encourages people not to buy their own poles before they have done a couple of lessons.
This is partly because you want to be certain that Nordic Walking is for you before investing in poles. Also, it is important to ensure that you get poles that are the right height for you, and because there are different models of poles which have different features and made of different materials.
It's important to be sure about what you want in your poles before buying them – e.g., do you want fixed length poles or folding ones for travel. We loan you poles during your course with us, so you can take them home for a week to practice what you are learning in the course. Trying out different models is a good idea before you buy your own poles.
Choosing a quality and correctly sized pair of poles is extremely important, so seeking advice is strongly recommended. Consider your budget but don’t skimp on quality or be fooled by ‘cheap’ imitations, as they will most likely end up costing you more money in the long run.
There are several features to consider, and individual preferences are also important. Key features include the hand strap, handgrip, shaft material, fixed length or adjustable, metal tip and rubber paws.
The United Kingdom National Health Service recognises Nordic Walking as a highly effective form of physical exercise and Public Health England formally recommends Nordic Walking. In Australia various state-based organisations such as Arthritis and Diabetes Foundations, and the Heart Foundation Walking Initiative also recognise and promote the benefits of Nordic Walking.
Kristen Pratt, Founding Director of Capital Nordic Walking is a qualified Occupational Therapist and a certified Nordic Walking Instructor with Nordic Walking UK (NWUK), Nordic Academy and the International Nordic Walking Association.
The NWUK Course is a Government Accredited Cert 4 in Fitness Walking and Nordic Walking and the Australian Nordic Academy Instructor Course is certified by Physical Activity Australia, Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), Fitness Australia, Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA), Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association (ALMA).
Nicky Gibbons is a registered Cert 3 and 4 Fitness Professional with Fitness Australia and has attained Advanced Level Master Trainer. She is also qualified as a Pilates Matwork Instructor and Strengthening for over 60’s teacher gained from St George Hospital, Sydney in alliance with their physiotherapists. Additionally, she is qualified in Nutrition, Swedish/Remedial Massage and is a Nordic Walking Instructor. She has worked closely with Kristen in learning the Capital Nordic Walking technique for teaching people to Nordic Walk, and is a certified Nordic Walking Instructor with the Nordic Academy in Melbourne.
Jacinta Greenwood holds a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology & Rehabilitation, is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) and Accredited Exercise Scientist (AES), and is a member of Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA).
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