Walk This Way
Indeed, Walters notes relieving joint stress is one of the many benefits of the Nordic walking technique. “The poles take some strain off the lower body,” she explains. The poles also provide a bit of added stability-and security- for anyone who has balance issues or simply hasn’t had much experience with regular exercise. “Nordic walking really is a great fitness regime no matter what your experience level,” Walter says.
Studies suggest that it further improves upon the many benefits of walking-raising your heart rate, increasing oxygen consumption, burning calories and strengthening a variety of muscle groups. A 2001 study conducted by the Cooper Institute of Dallas documented up to a 46 percent increase in calories burned over regular walking.
What’s more, many Nordic walking enthusiasts claim the gain doesn’t necessarily mean more pain. “I find it’s easier to walk fast with the poles,” Walter remarks. “They give you a rhythm, almost like a metronome.”
Although it pays off to learn the proper technique (see our tip below), “there’s no real danger in having improper form and there’s essentially no learning curve,” Walter enthuses.
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TIP: The Nordic walking technique is more a pole push than a pole swing. Step out with left foot, bring right pole forward; step out with right foot, left pole. Plant the pole tip in the range between the heel of your front foot and toe of back foot. Start with a slow gait, increasing speed as your muscles warm.