Nordic Walking – moving on up!
Personal trainers and fitness instructors are often on the look out for new ways of training clients to keep them motivated and one option that is becoming more popular is Nordic Walking, the subject of this blog.
A full-body work out that’s easy on the joints, Nordic Walking can be adapted to accommodate those training at every level, from the fittest athletes to those with specific health or mobility issues.
It has attracted a growing number of groups in the UK and is also popular in the US, Australia and other parts of in Europe.
How did Nordic Walking start?
It began in Finland in the 1930s, when cross country skiers who competed at a high level wanted to continue with their training when there was no snow on the ground.
They found that training with specially designed walking poles gave them a major competitive advantage as it benefited their heart and lung function and proved a good all-round work out for their muscles.
Its popularity grew through the 1980s; specialist poles began to be made and techniques were formalised. Nordic Walking classes began in the UK in 2001 and in 2004 Nordic Walking UK was formed (www.nordicwalking.co.uk).
What does Nordic Walking involve?
Apart from good walking or gym shoes and suitable clothing, the only equipment needed for Nordic Walking is the specially designed walking poles, which will either be provided by the fitness instructor or can be bought.
Used correctly, the poles take some of the weight that would normally be carried by the joints in the lower body, including the knees.
While the technique of walking with Nordic poles is simple to master, it’s advisable for beginners to take instruction from a fitness professional, who will be able to show them the best way to benefit from the activity, from posture to engaging the correct muscles. A fitness instructor can also help someone new to Nordic Walking avoid injury through incorrect technique or using the wrong size of poles.
Where is Nordic Walking carried out?
One of the advantages of this form of exercise is that it can be done pretty much anywhere outside or adapted for a gym environment.
What are the general benefits of Nordic Walking?
Providing a work out for the whole body, Nordic Walking uses muscle groups across the whole of the upper and lower body – around 90% of the skeletal muscles. This includes the posterior kinetic chain of muscles, which are often underworked in other kinds of aerobic and resistance training.
Nordic Walking also targets the synovial joints and can help with flexibility and general mobility. Depending on the intensity of the exercise and the effort put in, it can increase the calories that a person burns, helping them to lose or maintain weight.
Last but not least, it improves heart and lung function, which can reduce the risk of participants suffering from a variety of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 Diabetes (see our blogs on Personal Training: Coronary heart disease and Personal Training: Diabetes).
The benefits of Nordic Walking for those with mobility issues
Another benefit is that Nordic Walking can provide exercise for people at a variety of fitness levels, including those who suffer from knee and back problems and those with osteoarthritis or osteoporosis (see our blogs on Osteoporosis and on Exercise for those with mobility issues).
Nordic Walking and wellbeing
A sociable form of exercise, Nordic Walking also gives people the opportunity to exercise outdoors, with all the benefits that brings. Because it’s easy to pick up, people are less likely to drop out of the group.
And because people with specific health issues may find it difficult to take part in some other forms of exercise, joining a Nordic Walking group can improve wellbeing as well as fitness (see our blog on Exercise and mental health).
Personal training and Nordic Walking
A personal trainer or fitness instructor could potentially include Nordic Walking as part of a client’s exercise programme, either in a gym environment or when training outside. Alternatively, they could recommend that a client joins a Nordic Walking group to supplement their training regime in the gym.