Nordic pole walking: how to walk properly and what benefits it provides

Nordic pole walking

Nordic walking is an original and uncomplicated method of healing and fitness, which now attracts millions of people around the world. What is it and what benefits does it provide? For sure, there are many people among the readers, who heard of the Nordic (Pole or Swedish) walking for the first time not from the Internet or some other source, but only after meeting with people engaged in it.

At first glance, it might seem rather amusing. People go as usually, but for some reason pushes off himself with ski poles from the ground. It is especially unusual when you see such a walker in the summer. It seems that you see a scattered person, who forgot his skis at home and forgot what time of the year it is now.

Do not think though that those who are engaged in this kind of exercises are crazy. As a rule, these are very intelligent and rational people, who want to strengthen their health in the most optimal way.

HISTORY

How did this kind of walk appear? In fact, it is thousands of years old. The shepherds, moving along uneven mountain roads, used a couple of sticks of suitable length. However, the Nordic walking appeared as a kind of exercise much later, in the 1940s of the 20 century.

Actually, the homeland of this type of walking is Finland, which, from the geographic point of view, is not a Nordic country. It was invented by Finnish skiers, for whom winter ski trainings weren’t sufficient, and they did not want their sports shape to suffer from inaction during the summer period. The only difference is that the Finnish skiers practiced running with the poles, and not walking.

For some time, only professional athletes used this type of training. However, physicians and specialists in physical culture drew attention to this method soon.

As a result, a new type of physical exercise appeared and was combining both elements:

  1. health improvement,
  2. sports.

Sports walking, as a sport, owes its emergence to two Finnish enthusiasts – Marco Kantaneve and Mariu Rape. The first specialized equipment for walking, first of all,, the poles, appeared on the market by the end of the 1990s.

Currently, more than 700 thousand people (almost a fifth part of the population) are involved in this type of exercise at the home of the Nordic walk, in Finland.

Nordic walking has much in common with recreational techniques, such as:

  • running,
  • hiking,
  • skiing.

*At that, it has several advantages over them.

COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

If we compare the Nordic walking with the ordinary walking, it can be noted that Nordic walking involves a much larger number of muscle groups.

Usual walking

involves 60% of the muscle groups

Nordic walking

involves about 90% of the muscle groups

This can be easily explained through the fact that the use of sticks during the Nordic walking increases the load on the muscles of the upper body (arms, neck and shoulders). In addition, the load, the main part of which when walking falls on the legs and lower body, is more evenly distributed. The back remains straight, which is important for people with a spine issues. When Pole walking burns by 50% more calories than the usual walking does. Pulse during the pole walking also increases, compared to traditional walking, by 10-15 beats per minute.

The same can be said about running. In addition, running creates a much greater burden on the cardiovascular system, compared with Nordic walking.

This means that Nordic pole walking will suit:

  • professional athletes,
  • untrained people,
  • people with excess weight,
  • people with cardiovascular system.

As for skiing, it requires too many conditions – inventory, skiing runs and the corresponding season. Not to mention the fact that the technique of running on skis is much more difficult than walking, and ski walks have more contraindications.

APPLICATION

The main health effects of Pole walking:

increased muscle tone
better coordination
increased endurance
reduction of pain in the spine

improvement of the heart
blood pressure lowering
stress management
production of endorphins

correction of posture
better blood circulation
removal of muscle spasms
better body oxygenation

There are several types of Nordic walking:

  1. Recreational
  2. Classic,
  3. Sports.

Accordingly, they all imply somewhat different requirements to loads, equipment and inventory.

Almost any person can practice this healthy type of walking. Pole walking was the most popular as an effective method of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with:

  • cardiovascular diseases,
  • diseases of the musculoskeletal system (osteochondrosis, spine injuries),
  • disorders of the vestibular apparatus,
  • lung diseases,
  • nervous disorders,
  • insomnia,
  • vegetative-vascular dystonia,
  • diabetes,
  • constipation,
  • overweight,
  • pregnant women.

Walking can also be used as a means to maintain optimal physical shape by people leading a sedentary lifestyle, women who want to have an optimal figure, etc. Like ordinary walking, pole walking does not require significant initial physical training. At the same time, the main load, just like it is with walking, still lies on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which provides an overall strengthening effect.

INVENTORY

To practice Pole walking, all we need are the actual poles. However, it is worth mentioning that usual ski poles will not always suit for the Nordic walking. First of all, walking poles should be shorter than the ski poles are. This is due to the fact that people only lean on the poles while walking, and do not use them to push away. The average length of poles for beginners is calculated by the formula

length = height x 0.66*

* For people practicing at a higher pace, as well as athletes, the coefficient may be higher – of 0.7.

People with leg problems can use longer poles. This allows transferring the main load to your hands. In cervical osteochondrosis or problems with joints, on the contrary, sticks should be shortened.

You can also buy special telescopic poles, the height of which can be adjusted. In addition, the poles should be light, made of aluminum or durable plastic. The third point to pay attention to are the tips of the poles. While poles with sharp tips can be used to walk up the snow, they are not suitable for walking along the asphalt road or on some other hard surface. For these cases, you need to get poles with rubber tips. Some sticks allow changing the tips, so you can buy just one pair of poles and use whichever tips suit your current situation.

Another feature of the Nordic walking poles is the special straps, attached to their upper part, resembling gloves without fingers. This design is not accidental, because it allows the walker to push off with sticks without compressing their fingers around the pole handle. Properly selected straps should not strongly squeeze the wrist, as this prevents blood circulation in the hands.

Of course, you can adjust inventory for running on skis to use for the Nordic walking, yet it is more rational to buy specialized Nordic poles from well-established manufacturers. Wrongly chosen Nordic poles can negate the entire positive weight loss and recreational effect of walking and lead to the aggravation of chronic diseases.

Other equipment is not that critical. For Nordic walking, any sneakers and sportswear will suit. The main thing is that they are enough comfortable. Although the market also offers special equipment for the Pole walking.

Nordic walking

The only thing to note is that you must somehow protect your ankles to avoid accidental scratches from the sharp tips of the poles. You can also use:

  • fitness bracelets to control consumed calories,
  • heart rate monitors,
  • trackers designed to control the route.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

Are there any medical contraindications to Pole walking? Not so many. First of all, these are:

  • severe forms of cardiovascular insufficiency,
  • diabetes and thrombophlebitis,
  • inflammatory processes in the abdominal cavity and small pelvis,
  • exacerbation of chronic diseases,
  • organ decompensation,
  • fever,
  • recent operations,
  • angina pectoris,
  • hypertensive crisis,
  • scoliosis,
  • pregnancy disorders threatening miscarriage.

If you suffer from a disease and doubt whether you can get into recreational walking, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

HOW TO PRACTICE POLE WALKING

If you do not know how to walk properly with the poles, do not worry, it’s very easy to learn. You can also refer to a person who has already been engaged in this type of walking, so that he suggests you how to use the poles. Wellness walking, like any other type of exercise should begin with small loads and gradually increase them. The technique for beginners when walking with poles is quite simple.

At first, you can avoid relying on them at all and hold your hands as you would with ordinary walking, and then gradually raise them all higher and put the poles on the ground vertically.

Walking should not be different from usual, however it is desirable to do steps at a more intense pace, smoothly and rhythmically. For beginners it is important to find your own optimal pace, so that walking sessions, on the one hand, provide all the benefits, and on the other, not cause fatigue.

It is important to keep the poles close enough to your body. Optimum mode of movement is the one that skiers use:

– when you move your foot forward, the hand that is on the opposite side is thrown out.

It is also important to observe the correct breathing mode:

– the first two steps – inhale through the nose,
– the next three steps – exhale through the mouth.

You can gradually increase the movements amplitude to achieve the maximum effect.

Nordic walking is often used for weight loss purposes. In case of severe obesity, however, walking alone is more likely to be insufficient. You will also need additional exercises. If you want to lose a couple of kilograms, then it is quite real to achieve your weight loss goal in just a couple of months with walking.

How often should I “walk”? It depends on:

  1. individual fitness level,
  2. presence of certain diseases,
  3. characteristics of the planned route.

In the standard case, the recommended duration for beginners is half an hour, and the frequency of “walks” is 3 times a week.

THE BENEFITS OF NORDIC WALKING

Nordic walking is a way to spend your free time and get some health benefits. Routes for the pole walking can be located in the same place as the routes for ordinary jogs or walks, like parks, squares, or forest. This can be both a completely flat terrain, such as urban sidewalks and with descents and ascents alternating.

Many people consider Nordic walking to be a sport for the elderly. Is this attitude fair? Indeed, the benefits of Nordic walking are most pronounced in people with disabilities. This, of course, does not mean that other people will not benefit from practicing it. For sure, if a healthy person is engaged in Nordic walking, just this type of exercise will be insufficient for him.