Walking with poles
How can you make walking a better overall workout without feeling like you are exerting any more energy? How can you overcome the slouching, neck and shoulder pain many get from working at desks and computers? Across Europe, millions of people have taken up nordic walking to give them a good workout and loosen their neck and shoulders.
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic walking uses two specially designed poles to work the upper body while walking. Like cross country skiing, the poles are used by the arms to match each step the person takes.
How is it Better
Than Just Walking?
For a better but easier cardio workout, nordic walking increases your heart rate without increasing your perceived rate of exertion. You get a better workout without feeling like you are working any harder. While you can get a similar heart rate effect by walking faster, there are many people who do not want to walk faster or cannot walk fast.
Upper Body Workout
Nordic walking works the arms, shoulders and upper chest and back muscles through a full range of motion, stretching and lengthening those muscles which are often tight. The motion works to overcome the hunching forward that many people adopt while working at desks, computers, reading or watching TV. Many people exhibit stress by tightening their neck and shoulder muscles. Nordic walking loosens up those knots.
On any surface, the poles provide more stability for walkers who have balance knee or leg problems. Proper use of the poles and arm motion encourages good posture. People who had given up walking for pleasure find that they can walk comfortably with the poles. For natural trails, the poles provide stability for walkers much like a hiking stick.
Total Body vs. Half Body
Nordic walking poles add an upper body workout for the deltoids, lats, pecs, triceps and abdominals. By adding the upper body workout, calorie burning is increased up to 40% yet with no increase in how hard the walker feels they are exercising. Nordic walkers get a "total body" workout without feeling like they are working any harder than just walking.
Relieve Shoulder and Neck Stress
Using the correct nordic walking technique with relaxed shoulders, keeping the poles behind the body and using a full range of motion, the walker also releases stress carried in the shoulders and neck. Taking the arms and shoulders through the full range of motion throughout a 30 minute walk is a great antidote to the slouching many people do over desks and computers.
Higher Heart Rate But Lower Exertion
I recently participated in a test at the Vuokatti Sports Center in Finland, along with other walking editors. We walked a steady pace on a treadmill with and without nordic walking poles. The poles raised my heartrate by 10 bpm at the same speed. The other editors reported that walking felt easier with the poles than without, yet their heart rates were increased.
Many fitness walkers do not like the feeling of exerting themselves, yet the best health benefits come from a moderate intensity workout rather than an easy workout. Nordic walking poles raise the heart rate into the moderate intensity zone without the walker feeling like they are working any harder.
Nordic walking exertion is in the fat-burning zone. Researchers at Vuokatti showed how much fat vs. carbohydrate burning was done with and without poles. More fat-burning when using the poles was most evident with the editor who used the correct pole technique.
Better Workout at the Same
Adopting a fast walking technique or racewalking is a great way to pump up your walking workout. But nordic walking poles are an alternative for those who have difficulty walking faster or do not like to walk faster. By using the nordic walking poles at your usual walking speed, you increase your workout without going faster. This is also a good alternative for those whose walking partners cannot go faster.