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3/03/2010

Walking the Nordic Way

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If you're looking for a workout that burns more calories in less time, Nordic walking may just be the thing for you. Nordic walking is the exercise done on modified ski poles that can be done the whole year round, and not just when it's snowing.

Nordic walking evolved from evolved from another type of exercise more commonly known as ski-striding, which was an off-season activity that enabled people to become more accustomed to the skis. This was first popularized as a year-round activity in Finland by cross-country skiers for off-season training — known to be the most fit athletes in the world. It was from this place where Nordic walking was aptly coined — although in Finland, this sport is referred to as sauvak√§vely, or "pole walking". Although initially this fitness regimen did not spread so quickly — with it first being promoted in 1980 until the first official Nordic walker ski poles were introduced to the public in 1997 — it has soon become the fastest growing recreational fitness sports in the world. By the end of 2005, the estimated number of Nordic walkers has been pegged at a whopping 5 million people.

How has Nordic walking received such a level of attention? By making the upper body do its work as well as the lower, it has taken a step towards ordinary fitness walking or running to a new level — enabling the body to burn up to 50% more calories without having to walk faster or longer.

Nordic walking includes several other benefits, such as:

   1. Heart rate is about 13% or 5-17 beats higher than regular walking
   2. Poles help traction on slippery surfaces, thus becoming a safety factor
   3. Burns about 400 calories per hour, beating regular walking which only burns about 280 calories
   4. Increased overall endurance
   5. Aids in climbing hills and other elevated areas more easily
   6. Improved balance and stability
   7. Less stress applied on back and lower joints, thus lessening chances of injury
   8. Lateral mobility of neck and spine is increased significantly, thus releasing muscle tension in these specific regions

Nordic walking, with the specific modified poles, is proving to be an overall bodily workout that caters to people of all levels, whether it's for rehabilitation or relaxing, weight management or increasing aerobic capacity, up to Nordic walking as a physical challenge. Of course, it is important to choose not just any poles for any Nordic walking activity. Here are some tips to choosing the best Nordic poles for your specific needs.

1. It must be sturdy and light enough to be able to bring anywhere.
2. The grips should be comfortable and interchangeable.
3. Asphalt paws are more efficient at absorbing shock and gripping.
4. Straps must be specifically designed allowing for easier transfer of power and weight.
When deciding the height or length of these poles, the elbows are just perpendicular to the poles when held by the grip with the tip on the ground.

Nordic walking will need some getting used to, therefore specific training is advised. With Nordic walking gaining more and more walkers every day, looking for an instructor is not hard to find. There is an organization on this sport called International Nordic Walking Association which aims to unite all Nordic walkers out there. If your country is a participant, you can probably find a Nordic walking session somewhere. Otherwise, why don't you go and pioneer Nordic walking in your city.

Nordic walking seems to be something that will very well take over the world with its ski poles and a promise of overall body fitness. It just might be the next big thing — showing no signs of going away soon.

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