Try Nordic Pole Walking for a Full Body Workout

Hiking poles lean against a rock with a blue water bottle sitting on it with mountains seen in the background.

If you want to make your daily walk even more efficient for burning calories, increasing fitness, and working more muscle groups, give Nordic Pole Walking a try. (Image: Błażej Łyjak via Dreamstime)

Walking is an excellent low-impact exercise that is achievable for people of all ages. If you try Nordic Pole Walking for just 20 minutes a day, you can expect to feel more energetic, experience improved mental health, sleep better, and even slow aging.

Walking is so simple and comes at virtually no cost, unless you count in the cost of your sneakers — or none — if you’re into barefoot walking!

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You can benefit from any kind of regular exercise, but if you want to make your daily walk even more efficient for burning calories, increasing fitness, and working more muscle groups, Nordic Pole Walking might be worth a try.

Nordic Pole Walking is a full-body experience. Some even call it pilates taken to movement. By also engaging your top half, Nordic Pole Walking not only works your legs and buttocks, but your arms, abdominals, and back.

A couple walking on trail with backpacks using Nordic poles.
Nordic Pole Walking is a full-body experience. (Image: Tyler Olson via Dreamstime)

Nordic Pole Walking uses 90 percent of the body’s muscles

There have been many research studies on Nordic Pole Walking, and scientists have been amazed at how comprehensive this activity is. In fact, there are few activities, like swimming and perhaps martial arts, that can compare to Nordic Pole Walking, as it uses 90 percent of the muscles.

In comparison, regular walking only uses 40 percent of muscles, while jogging or cycling engages between 40-50 percent of your total muscles.

For weight loss and healthy weight management, Nordic Pole Walking is an excellent choice of exercise compared to walking.

By adding poles you can expect to burn an added 46 percent more calories. In addition, because the muscles are worked harder and continue to expend energy after the workout, Nordic Pole Walking has the added benefit of helping you to lose fat faster by extending your calorie-burn time.

For fitness fanatics, Nordic Pole Walking is one of the best ways you can keep fit all year round, as this style of walking offers 25 percent more cardiovascular workout than regular walking.

Want to improve core strength to enjoy the mobility of a pain-free back? Nordic walking wakes up your abdomen by demanding 1,800 contractions per mile.

Does this sound hard? The beauty of this technique is that while it gives a decent workout, you don’t actually feel like you are working that hard. If you want more — go faster and longer, if you want less — slow down a little.

Adapt your pace to suit your progress, or try these different gaits for a challenge. This video by PINO DELLASEGA  is very inspirational!

Recovery and rehabilitation

Do you suffer hip, knee, or back problems? Or do you have another type of injury? Many physiotherapists recommend Nordic Pole Walking as a rehabilitation exercise to build stability, balance, and strength.

The poles minimize pressure and impact on your joints, allowing walking to be more supported as you build your confidence to be mobile again.

These are the reasons why Nordic Pole Walking is ideal for the aging population, especially if you want to venture off the paved path and begin to explore more rugged terrain.

Take the time to master the technique and pattern of movement, then build up the time you are walking. Master trainer Jennifer Howey, a lecturer for the Physical Therapy Program at the University of Toronto, suggests building up to a 30-minute walk, 4-5 times per week.

Don’t be embarrassed, as walking poles are gaining popularity

There is one more point I want to cover. Many people associate a walking pole with a walking aid for the elderly or the disabled. Although the poles are a kind of tool, they should not be seen as a prop, but more of an extension of your arms.

Nordic Walking in Autumn mountains.
The poles should be seen as an extension of your arms. (Image: Błażej Łyjak via Dreamstime)

The poles allow your upper body to get in on some walking action too — why should your legs get all the fun and glory?

Walking with Nordic poles takes a little bit of getting used to, but after a short time, you will find the movement to be rhythmic and very natural. In fact, because you need to think just a little more about your coordination, it brings your mind into the present to give a meditative effect.

Nordic Pole Walking has been around since the early 1900s in Finland. With the benefits that have been discovered and the endorsement of many types of physical therapists, I imagine it will only become more popular and follow the trends of Europe and Canada.

This means you won’t look so odd to others when you appear as if you are skiing in a scene with no snow, as more people are bound to take it up.

If you are still skeptical, think about this: Clinical physiotherapist Jennifer Howden says she often tells her clients that there are good reasons why many people in Finland are still walking daily, well into their nineties!

Decent Nordic Walking poles are not cheap though. This is because they are made from a very high-quality metal that is super light. You can spend anywhere from US$150-$350 on a quality pair of poles. However, if you are savvy, you can also pick up a good pair if you scout for a second-hand pair, or wait until they are on sale.

Many Nordic Walking groups also give free instruction and a loan of some poles, so you can decide if you want to go the extra step and purchase your own.

I’ve always had an amusing notion that anything that comes out of Norwegian countries must be good, and Nordic Pole Walking is no different! Just kidding, well sort of.

Seriously though, if I can squeeze a full-body workout into a 30-minute hike up the road, or through a nature reserve a few times a week, I can get all the benefits of physical exercise in one step — box ticked!

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