Every day on trails across the Valley, people can be spotted out for walks.
Long recognized as the best low impact exercises ever, walking is popular with all ages, and even casual strolling is beneficial. Besides a host of other benefits, regular walking improves circulation, maintains healthy bones, muscles and joints and helps the body burn unwanted fat like crazy.
Regular walking is also the simplest exercise you can do. Besides everyday clothing geared to the weather, all you need to reap its countless benefits is jogging, walking or hiking shoes.
Walking, in other words, is not only great for you; it’s also the most natural exercise you can get into.
But what if you added a piece of equipment to your walking routine and tried a new phenomenon that’s sweeping Canada - and by doing so, nearly doubled the physical benefits and exercised over 30 per cent more muscles than you did while walking?
This is where Nordic or pole walking comes in. By including a set of Nordic poles in your walking routine and learning a simple technique you can multiply the health benefits of walking two or three fold. And all without adding any apparent increase in your exertion or speed while you walk.
So what is Nordic walking? To put it as simply as possible, Nordic walking basically is walking with the addition of specially-designed poles with wrist straps, using them like you were cross country skiing, but without the snow and skis. In fact, Nordic walking was created by Finnish biathletes and Nordic skiers as a dry ground summer training exercise for cross-country skiers. That was back in the 1930s, and since then, a Nordic walking craze has swept across Europe, where it has millions of adherents today.
As word spread about its health benefits, Nordic walking has been making inroads in Canada as well. Under the umbrella of groups such as the Canadian Nordic Walking Association and Nordixx Canada, hundreds of walking clubs have started up across the country over the last decade.
Nordic walking is catching on here too, thanks to the leadership of Acadia University’s Department of Kineseology. Under Professor Shilpa Dogra, the Kinesiology Department has been conducting free workshops for over a year. Seniors were targeted at first at the workshops, Dogra says, and over 100 have been introduced to Nordic walking.
The program, which certified 15 instructors, was expanded to include high schools and any local walking clubs in the Valley interested in taking up Nordic walking.
Basically, Nordic walking imitates the natural body movements of regular walking and is easily adaptable to meet individual fitness levels. However, adding Nordic poles to your everyday walks makes a huge difference. For example, regular walking at a slow to moderate pace burns from 170 to 200 calories. Add walking poles and the burn is increased by 30 to 40 per cent. Regular walking involves using about 60 per cent of your muscles, most of them in the lower body; Nordic walking uses 80 to 90 per cent of your body muscles – the upper body gets a workout, too – and you improve overall fitness.
In addition to increasing overall fitness, Nordic walking has less impact on knees and joints than regular walking and improves posture, balance and stability. There’s a mental aspect as well. Fitness gurus note that a session of Nordic walking tends to clear your mind, and like regular walking, supports stress management.
You can learn the Nordic walking technique in a few minutes, but the benefits reaped will last a lifetime. To learn more about Nordic walking workshops or to find an instructor in your area, contact the Kinesiology Department at Acadia University.
Nordixx Canada and the Canadian Nordic Walking Association are good places to Google on the Internet if you want to learn more. Many Internets sites, including the above, offer excellent videos on Nordic walking.
Most sporting goods stores stock Nordic walking poles. In the Wolfville area, you can sign out walking poles for short periods, no charge, at the Acadia University box office.
Benefits of Nordic Walking
• Combines cardiovascular and muscle strengthening training in one exercise.
• Involves up to 90 per cent of your body muscles. Regular walking uses about 70 per cent. Nordic walking incorporates 55 per cent of the body muscles located above the belt line and 40 per cent of the muscles below the belt line.
• Burns up to 46 per cent more calories than regular walking.
• Increases muscle endurance and strength.
• Adds more stability and balance to your stride than regular walking.
• Improves your walking posture and breathing.
• Changes the way you walk and puts less stress on your ankle, hip and knee joints than regular walking. It also allows walking with knee problems.
• If inclined, you can do Nordic walking year around. Walking poles have adjustable tips that give you traction on various surfaces – gravel and grass in summer, snow and ice in winter.